Meili Steele deposited The Philosophical Importance of Henry James’s Late Style in the group Literary theory on Humanities Commons 2 months, 1 week ago
When speaking of the philosophical importance of James’s late style, critics and philosophers have taken two broad approaches. One route, exemplified by Martha Nussbaum, attributes this style to the sensitivity of the characters. The other, exemplified by Robert Pippin, attributes the writing’s complexity to the ambiguities of the moral codes during this period of history. In my reading, James’s texts address a more general problem of modernity, which is the flattening of the lifeworld (Lebenswelt) by disengaged approaches to both epistemology and morality, the reduction of the lifeworld to the environment (Umwelt). James’s works open an ontological dimension to the question of language and normativity, a question that modernity’s moral languages—whether based on deontology, utility, or virtue—fail to articulate. His texts interrogate what normativity is rather than just portraying the sensitivity of the characters or uncertainty of the historical moment, although both of those readings are certainly justified.