The Particulars of Rapture: An Aesthetics of the Affects

Overview

This brilliant, penetrating, and ambitious book by a well-known literary theorist studies the complex relationship between the emotions on the one side and literary works and paintings on the other. A central aim of Charles Altieri's is to rescue our understanding of the affects from philosophical theories that subordinate them to cognitive control and ethical judgment. Altieri concentrates on two fundamental aspects of aesthetic experience: the first describes how representative texts and paintings compose ...
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Overview

This brilliant, penetrating, and ambitious book by a well-known literary theorist studies the complex relationship between the emotions on the one side and literary works and paintings on the other. A central aim of Charles Altieri's is to rescue our understanding of the affects from philosophical theories that subordinate them to cognitive control and ethical judgment. Altieri concentrates on two fundamental aspects of aesthetic experience: the first describes how representative texts and paintings compose intricate affective states; the second engages how we might generalize from the values involved in the affects made articulate by works of art. He addresses a range of affective states, distinguishing carefully among sensations, feelings, moods, emotions, and passions. He shows how art solicits, organizes, and reflects upon affective energies and how many of the qualities of the affects developed within artworks simply disappear when observers are content with adjectival labels such as "sad," "angry," or "happy." The Particulars of Rapture proposes treating affects in adverbial rather than in adjectival terms, emphasizing the way in which text and paintings shape distinct affective states. Such an emphasis places the manner in which artwork acts upon the emotions central to the quality of the resulting affect. And that emphasis in turn enables Altieri to show how a more general expressivist model for establishing and assessing values can compete with perspectives based on rationality.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"At least since his startlingly original, philosophically astute Act and Quality, Altieri has been recognized as an American theorist of the first order. Any reader of Particulars of Rapture will see why, in the care and finesse of his argument. Its enterprise too is worthy of him, since he puts forth an argument largely original within the philosophical as well as the literary-critical literature. . . . Anyone who cares about the philosophical understanding of the affects should, I urge, read The Particulars of Rapture. Anyone who cares about the role of affects as we encounter artworks should include the books to be read."—Eric Rothstein, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Contemporary Literature, v. 46 no. 1, Spring 2005

"Charles Altieri is one of our greatest analysts of modernism. In his previous books he has emphasized modernist writing's cognitive and ethical aims. Now, in The Particulars of Rapture, he turns his attention to art in general, and to art's expression of intense emotions. The result is a book of ecstatic theorizing about poetry, painting, and fiction. As rapturous as it is rigorously philosophical, this work is Altieri's best ever and deserves to be widely read."—Robert L. Caserio, Head, Department of English, The Pennsylvania State University and author of The Novel in England 1900-1950: History and Theory

"In challenging a sharp dichotomy between cognition and 'mere' feeling with an unprecedentedly rich and careful phenomenology of affects and their roles in our lives, Charles Altieri makes manifest how we can and do become deeply engaged in the enterprises of art as open explorations of possible modes of selfhood. It is faithful to Altieri's argument to say that I found myself absorbed in it—caught up in sharing in his own exemplary trajectories of understanding, feeling, and imagination."—Richard Eldridge, author of On Moral Personhood and The Persistence of Romanticism

"The Particulars of Rapture lays the groundwork for thinking in truly complex ways about the emotions. Charles Altieri begins by clarifying the relations among feelings, moods, emotions and passions and goes on to evaluate theories of the emotions in a range of disciplines—all the while refusing any simple antinomies between emotion and reason or affect and cognition. He gives close attention to the details of emotional experiences within, and in response to, works of art and literature and shows the passions as an ever-emergent resource of identity. If understanding the emotions, rather than simply undergoing them, can make us happy, this book will bring happiness to many readers."—Susan Stewart, University of Pennsylvania

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801441547
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2004
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.52 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Altieri is Stageberg Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of many books, including The Particulars of Rapture: An Aesthetics of the Affects, also from Cornell, and Postmodernism Now: Essays on Contemporaneity in the Arts.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 The Arts as a Challenge to Dominant Philosophical Theories of the Affects 1
2 Engaging Affect in Painting and in Poetry 37
3 Interpreting Emotions 72
4 Why Manner Matters: Expression and Conative Value 109
5 Emotions, Values, and the Claims of Reason, Part 1: Martha Nussbaum's Upheavals of Thought and the Limits of Normative Theory 153
6 Emotions, Values, and the Claims of Reason, Part 2: Conativity and Its Consequences 181
App Reading Feelings in Literature and Painting 231
Notes 255
Bibliography 291
Index 297
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