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Joyful pessimism

Marginality, disengagement, and the doing of nothing

Martin Demant Frederiksen

cruel optimism—“joyful pessimism”—as an analytical device to capture an alternative configuration of marginality and boredom. If optimism can be seen as being cruel when that which “ignites a sense of possibility actually makes it impossible to attain

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Luke Brunning

Value monists and value pluralists disagree deeply. Pluralists want to explain why moral life feels frustrating; monists want clear action guidance. If pluralism is true, our actions may be unable to honour irredeemably clashing values. This possibility could prompt pessimism, but the ‘avoidance approach’ to pluralism holds that although values may conflict inherently, we can take pre-emptive action to avoid situations where they would conflict in practice, rather like a child pirouetting to avoid the cracks on a pavement. Sadly, this view is hostage to epistemic problems and unforeseen consequences and is liable to generate timidity. It rests on the intuition that honouring values in action is more important than doing so in other ways, but this is a premise we have reason to reconsider.

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Making Sense of the Remote Areas

Films and Stories from a Tundra Village

Petia Mankova

last section, I present the stories before ending with a discussion of the politics of storytelling and affect. Remoteness, Films, and Sentimental Pessimism The village is often defined in the media as otdalenka , a diminutive of “remote area,” and can

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Feminist Anthropology Anew

Motherhood and HIV/AIDS as Sites of Action

Pamela J. Downe

Ongoing discussions about feminist anthropology as an active and relevant sub-discipline largely rely on historical comparisons that pit the political fervour of the past against what is deemed to be the less defined and increasingly disengaged feminist anthropology of today. In this paper, I argue that the prevailing tone of pessimism surrounding feminist anthropology should be met with a critical response that: (1) situates the current characterization of the sub-discipline within broader debates between second- and third-wave feminism; and (2) considers the ways in which the supposed incongruity between theories of deconstruction and political engagement undermines the sub-discipline's strengths. Throughout this discussion, I consider what an ethnographic study of motherhood in the context of HIV/AIDS can offer as we take stock of feminist anthropology's current potential and future possibility.

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Realistic Idealism

An Aristotelian Alternative to Machiavellian International Relations

Pedro Alexis Tabensky

In this paper I criticize political realism in International Relations for not being realistic enough, for being unrealistically pessimistic and ultimately incoherent. For them the international arena will always be a place where a battle of wills, informed by the logic of power, is fought. I grant that it may be true that the international political domain is a place where such battles are fought, but this alleged infelicitous situation does not in and of itself entail the normative pessimism informing their assessments of the international domain, and it does not entail the recommendations offered by political realists, particularly relating to balance of power concerns. Their lack of realism stems from total or partial blindness to the proper and coherent ideals that ought to be informing their analyses of the international domain. Such blindness does not allow them properly to grasp what actually is the case. As we can only properly understand what an eye is by knowing the ideal that defines eyes — proper vision — so too we can only properly identify the movements of the international political arena in relation to ideals that ultimately define this arena, ideals that stem from a proper understanding of the human person. Following an Aristotelian teleological technique of analysis, I show that ideals are a constitutive part of the international domain and I recommend an alternative to political realism, namely, realistic idealism (or, if you prefer, idealistic realism).

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Rod Cooke

This paper examines the similarities between the narrative techniques employed in the final three Tintin albums, and the novels of the lesser-known French naturalist authors from the 1880s. Both Hergé and these writers were driven by a pessimism, both existential and aesthetic, to rewrite the earlier works in whose shadow they stood, undermining their mimetic character. As a result, such apparently diverse genres as the bande dessinée and the naturalist novel come to share features like misleading nomenclature, the erosion of character agency and circular narratives. The praise frequently lavished on Les Bijoux de la Castafiore ['The Castafiore Emerald'] at the expense of the two following albums, therefore, overlooks their fundamental kinship. Hergé removes Tintin from the centre of his later narratives and often diminishes his role. His interviews and biographies confirm his deteriorating feelings toward his creation, a sentiment that had been foreshadowed in 1880s France. There, authors like Hennique, Huysmans and Céard felt oppressed by the style of writing mastered by Flaubert and Zola before them. In both contexts, the paradoxical result of such disillusionment is a focus on rewriting the earlier texts, exposing the mechanisms of mimesis relied upon by Zola and the younger Hergé.

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George Gissing and the Ethnographer's 'I'

Civilisation in The Nether World and Eve's Ransom

Richard Pearson

In the last thirty years, critical studies of George Gissing have tended to focus on the early social novels, from Demos (1886) to The Nether World (1889), and then the early 1890s social problem novels, New Grub Street (1891) and The Odd Women (1893). However, to the late Victorians, Gissing was at his most powerful and popular during the mid-1890s, with works like In the Year of Jubilee (1894), Eve’s Ransom (1895) and The Whirlpool (1897). These put Gissing on the intellectual map and saw him move from writerly obscurity to man of letters, admired by Wells, Meredith and others. However, after his death, Gissing suffered from a reaction against what was seen as his pessimism, his egoism, and his bleak portrait of society. In one of the early studies of his work, Virginia Woolf criticised the personal in Gissing’s novels – seeing the protagonists as thinly veiled versions of himself and his own injustices: ‘…Gissing is one of those imperfect novelists through whose books one sees the life of the author faintly covered by the lives of fictitious people.’1 She considered that ‘…to use personal suffering to rivet the reader’s sympathy and curiosity upon your private case is disastrous.’ This strain of critical opinion continued even into the 1960s, scarcely questioned. V.S. Pritchett remarked that, ‘[n]o other English novelist until then had a chip the size of Gissing’s; self-pitying, spiritless, resentful, humourless, his lucid bleat drags down his characters and his words’, whilst Irving Howe suggests that only New Grub Street avoids ‘those impulses to self-pity which mar a good many of his books.’

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David Detmer and John Ireland

nature of Sartre’s early philosophical ambition and a constant if muted pessimism underlying the much more prevalent optimism associated with most of his ventures. For Seki, Sartre’s pessimism fully surfaces in his adaptation of Euripides’s Trojan Women

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Editorial

Past and Present

Matthew P. Romaniello

resonance, both in terms of its striking familiarity with current debates over global trade and its environmental damage in the region. Finally, Petia Mankova challenges the “sentimental pessimism” that has been prominently featured in recent media

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that six years have passed since this special issue was published, the editors’ recognize the accuracy of the analyses presented in Conde’s special issue. Specifically, unlike most scholars of these movements, Conde highlighted an initial pessimism for