Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Contaminations"Beyond Dialectics in Modern Literature, Science and Film"$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Michael Mack

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474411363

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411363.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use.date: 15 June 2021

Contaminating Judgement with its Suspension: Guilt and Punishment in Walter Benjamin, Herman Melville and Henry James

Contaminating Judgement with its Suspension: Guilt and Punishment in Walter Benjamin, Herman Melville and Henry James

Chapter:
(p.107) 4 Contaminating Judgement with its Suspension: Guilt and Punishment in Walter Benjamin, Herman Melville and Henry James
Source:
Contaminations
Author(s):

Michael Mack

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474411363.003.0005

Chapter first discusses how Agamben turns Benjamin’s notion ‘mere life’ into his ever so slightly changed coinage ‘bare life’. Both expressions refer to life as pure material, embodied entity uncontaminated by intellectual or spiritual connotations. The main part of the chapter analyses how a deferral of judgement on ‘bare’ or ‘mere’ life informs a modernist preoccupation with the internal workings of the mind. A suspension of judgment preconditions literary as well as scientific explorations of stigmatized topics such as mental illness or aging. The chapter first explores the reversibility of categories of economic prudence and mental illness in Melville’s novella Bartleby, the Scrivener and then shows how such openness to revisions and corrections informs the so far overlooked scientific experiment that Henry James conducts in his impressionist/expressionist novel The Ambassadors. In treating Bartleby ‘as if he were air,’ the narrator falls prey to delusions. Deluded the prudent narrator turns out to be deranged rather than Bartleby, whom critics have singled out to be mentally ill. In his short novel Melville contaminates medical categorisations of mental illness with what is posited to be their opposites: mental health and economic prudence. Like Bartleby, Strether does not do what is expected of him.

Keywords:   Economics, Weber’s Protestant Ethics, Puritanism, Benjamin’s “Capitalism as Religion”, Melville’s novella Bartleby, the Scrivener, Henry James’s novel The Ambassadors, prudence, mental illness, literature as experiment

Edinburgh Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.