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Reckoning with the Imagination: Wittgenstein and the Aesthetics of Literary Experience (Paperback)
  • Reckoning with the Imagination: Wittgenstein and the Aesthetics of Literary Experience (Paperback)

Reckoning with the Imagination: Wittgenstein and the Aesthetics of Literary Experience (Paperback)

Paperback 280 Pages / Published: 21/05/2015
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Much current theorizing about literature involves efforts to renew our sense of aesthetic values in reading. Such is the case with new formalism as well as recent appeals to the notion of "surface reading." While sympathetic to these efforts, Charles Altieri believes they ultimately fall short because too often they fail to account for the values that engage literary texts in the social world. In Reckoning with the Imagination, Altieri argues for a reconsideration of the Kantian tradition of Idealist ethics, which he believes can restore much of the power of the arguments for the role of aesthetics in art. Altieri finds a perspective for that restoration in a reading of Wittgenstein's later work that stresses Wittgenstein's parallel criticisms of the spirit of empiricism. Altieri begins by offering a phenomenology of imagination, because we cannot fully honor art if we do not link it to a distinctive, socially productive force. That force emerges in two quite different but equally powerful realizations in his reading of John Ashbery's "Instruction Manual," which explicitly establishes a model for a postromantic view of imagination, and William Butler Yeats's "Leda and the Swan." He then turns to Wittgenstein with chapters on the role of display as critique of Enlightenment thinking, the honoring of qualities like sensitivity and the ability to attune to the actions of others, the role of expression in the building of models, and the contrast between ethical and confessional modes of judgment. Finally, Altieri produces his own model of aesthetic experience as participatory valuation and makes an extended argument for the social significance of appreciation as a way to escape the patterns of resentment fundamental to our current mode of politics. A masterful work by one of our foremost literary and philosophical theorists, Reckoning with the Imagination will breathe new life into ongoing debates over the value of aesthetic experience.

Publisher: Cornell University Press
ISBN: 9780801456701
Number of pages: 280
Weight: 425 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm


"Charles Altieri has long been our most philosophical, and yet most impassioned, critic and theorist of poetry, for whom lyric poems are heroic 'acts of mind' that criticize illusion and empower the reader 'to will what the intellect sees,' while yet marrying this activity to 'lively affective intensities.' In this new book, he shows, with the assistance of Wittgenstein, how notions like imagination, feeling, attunement, and appreciation can be given a viable, post-Romantic sense adequate to the fullness of the experience of poetry."

-- Henry Staten, University of Washington

"Charles Altieri has written a book about the social uses of literature that doesn't foreclose the power of aesthetic engagements to transfigure particular lives, especially with respect to possibilities of self-understanding that mere sociality cannot confer and, even more importantly, with respect to the sensuous intensities that society cannot harness. Altieri restores to our investments in the aesthetic a power of appreciation for human worldliness that has long been absent from literary criticism-to the detriment of literature and life."

-- Alan Singer, author of The Self-Deceiving Muse: Notice and Knowledge in the Work of Art

"Charles Altieri is one of our foremost literary/philosophical theorists and critics of poetry, and anything he writes commands attention. He is a master of these realms and a fine-tuned reader in the disciplines he knows so well. Reckoning with the Imagination is a rigorous and impressive book."

-- David Mikics, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of English, University of Houston, author of Slow Reading in a Hurried Age

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