The Way We Argue Now: A Study in the Cultures of Theory

Princeton University Press
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How do the ways we argue represent a practical philosophy or a way of life? Are concepts of character and ethos pertinent to our understanding of academic debate? In this book, Amanda Anderson analyzes arguments in literary, cultural, and political theory, with special attention to the ways in which theorists understand ideals of critical distance, forms of subjective experience, and the determinants of belief and practice. Drawing on the resources of the liberal and rationalist tradition, Anderson interrogates the limits of identity politics and poststructuralism while holding to the importance of theory as a form of life.

Considering high-profile trends as well as less noted patterns of argument, The Way We Argue Now addresses work in feminism, new historicism, queer theory, postcolonialism, cosmopolitanism, pragmatism, and proceduralism. The essays brought together here--lucid, precise, rigorously argued--combine pointed critique with an appreciative assessment of the productive internal contests and creative developments across these influential bodies of thought.


Ultimately, The Way We Argue Now promotes a revitalized culture of argument through a richer understanding of the ways critical reason is practiced at the individual, collective, and institutional levels. Bringing to the fore the complexities of academic debate while shifting the terms by which we assess the continued influence of theory, it will appeal to readers interested in political theory, literary studies, cultural studies, gender studies, and the place of academic culture in society and politics.

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About the author

Amanda Anderson is the Caroline Donovan Professor of English Literature and Department Chair at Johns Hopkins University. Her books include The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation of Detachment (Princeton) and Tainted Souls and Painted Faces: The Rhetoric of Fallenness in Victorian Culture.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 10, 2009
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Pages
224
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ISBN
9781400826827
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / General
Political Science / History & Theory
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Combining analysis of Victorian literature and culture with forceful theoretical argument, The Powers of Distance examines the progressive potential of those forms of cultivated detachment associated with Enlightenment and modern thought. Amanda Anderson explores a range of practices in nineteenth-century British culture, including methods of objectivity in social science, practices of omniscience in artistic realism, and the complex forms of affiliation in Victorian cosmopolitanism. Anderson demonstrates that many writers--including George Eliot, John Stuart Mill, Charlotte Brontë, Matthew Arnold, and Oscar Wilde--thoughtfully address the challenging moral questions that attend stances of detachment. In so doing, she offers a revisionist account of Victorian culture and a tempered defense of detachment as an ongoing practice and aspiration.

The Powers of Distance illuminates its historical object of study and provides a powerful example for its theoretical argument, showing that an ideal of critical detachment underlies the ironic modes of modernism and postmodernism as well as the tradition of Enlightenment thought and critical theory. Its broad understanding of detachment and cultivated distance, together with its focused historical analysis, will appeal to theorists and critics across the humanities, particularly those working in literary and cultural studies, feminism, and postcolonialism. Original in scope and thesis, this book constitutes a major contribution to literary history and contemporary theory.

Combining analysis of Victorian literature and culture with forceful theoretical argument, The Powers of Distance examines the progressive potential of those forms of cultivated detachment associated with Enlightenment and modern thought. Amanda Anderson explores a range of practices in nineteenth-century British culture, including methods of objectivity in social science, practices of omniscience in artistic realism, and the complex forms of affiliation in Victorian cosmopolitanism. Anderson demonstrates that many writers--including George Eliot, John Stuart Mill, Charlotte Brontë, Matthew Arnold, and Oscar Wilde--thoughtfully address the challenging moral questions that attend stances of detachment. In so doing, she offers a revisionist account of Victorian culture and a tempered defense of detachment as an ongoing practice and aspiration.

The Powers of Distance illuminates its historical object of study and provides a powerful example for its theoretical argument, showing that an ideal of critical detachment underlies the ironic modes of modernism and postmodernism as well as the tradition of Enlightenment thought and critical theory. Its broad understanding of detachment and cultivated distance, together with its focused historical analysis, will appeal to theorists and critics across the humanities, particularly those working in literary and cultural studies, feminism, and postcolonialism. Original in scope and thesis, this book constitutes a major contribution to literary history and contemporary theory.

We live in a psychological age. Contemporary culture is saturated with psychological concepts and ideas, from anxiety to narcissism to trauma. While it might seem that concern over psychological conditions and challenges is intrinsically oriented toward moral questions about what promotes individual and collective well-being, it is striking that from the advent of Freudian psychoanalysis in the late nineteenth-century up to recent findings in cognitive science, psychology has posed a continuing challenge to traditional concepts of moral deliberation, judgment, and action, all core components of moral philosophy and central to understandings of character and tragedy in literature. Psyche and Ethos: Moral Life After Psychology explores the nature of psychology's consequential effects on our understanding of the moral life. Using a range of examples from literature and literary criticism alongside discussions of psychological literature from psychoanalysis to recent cognitive science and social psychology, this study argues for a renewed look at the persistence of moral orientations toward life and the values of integrity, fidelity, and repair that they privilege. Writings by Shakespeare, Henry James, and George Eliot, and the powerful contributions of British object relations theorists in the post-war period, help to draw out the fundamental ways we experience moral time, the forms of elusive duration that constitute loss, grief, regret, and the desire for amends. Acknowledging the power and necessity of psychological frameworks, Psyche and Ethos aims to restore moral understanding and moral experience to a more central place in our understanding of psychic life and the literary tradition.
We live in a psychological age. Contemporary culture is saturated with psychological concepts and ideas, from anxiety to narcissism to trauma. While it might seem that concern over psychological conditions and challenges is intrinsically oriented toward moral questions about what promotes individual and collective well-being, it is striking that from the advent of Freudian psychoanalysis in the late nineteenth-century up to recent findings in cognitive science, psychology has posed a continuing challenge to traditional concepts of moral deliberation, judgment, and action, all core components of moral philosophy and central to understandings of character and tragedy in literature. Psyche and Ethos: Moral Life After Psychology explores the nature of psychology's consequential effects on our understanding of the moral life. Using a range of examples from literature and literary criticism alongside discussions of psychological literature from psychoanalysis to recent cognitive science and social psychology, this study argues for a renewed look at the persistence of moral orientations toward life and the values of integrity, fidelity, and repair that they privilege. Writings by Shakespeare, Henry James, and George Eliot, and the powerful contributions of British object relations theorists in the post-war period, help to draw out the fundamental ways we experience moral time, the forms of elusive duration that constitute loss, grief, regret, and the desire for amends. Acknowledging the power and necessity of psychological frameworks, Psyche and Ethos aims to restore moral understanding and moral experience to a more central place in our understanding of psychic life and the literary tradition.
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