Jami Bartlett: “Meredith & Ends” (on action and intention)


The current issue of ELH (Fall 2009) contains an article by Jami Bartlett (English, U.C. Irvine) entitled “Meredith & Ends,” which may interest some of you. It’s primarily about George Meredith’s novel, The Egoist, but it also includes discussions of Anscombe and Wittgenstein (on the description of intentions). To access the essay, please click here.

The following is the essay’s abstract, and below that, a PDF of its opening section:

This article connects two kinds of descriptions that have been considered mutually exclusive: the description of action in the realist novel, and the description of intention in analytic philosophy. Reading Wittgenstein’s theorization of intention as a “detail in the darkness” alongside the internal friction of aphorisms in Meredith’s The Egoist, I argue that we should understand descriptions of intentional action, the characters they flatten, and the scenes they interrupt, as disclosing their own atomized meanings without reference to their surrounding (and often uninhabitable) contexts. The result is a unique theory of the work that description does to motivate the stories we tell about the reasons we act.

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