ISBN is

978-0-8203-1295-8 / 9780820312958

John Stuart Mill and the Writing of Character

by

Publisher:Univ of Georgia Pr

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

Although John Stuart Mill never devoted an essay or treatise solely to character, this interdisciplinary study argues that the subject was central to his writings on politics, philosophy, science, literature, sociology and psychology. Janice Carlisle proposes a re-evaluation of the links between Mill's experience and his writings, and she does so by examining such larger issues as the relation between gender and profession in Victorian culture and the nature of autobiographical writing. Moreover, the questions that interested Mill provide a historical perspective on current debates about the relative value of theory and practice or the construction of individuals by social and political forces beyond their control. The first and most biographical section of the book treats Mill's early training in associationist psychology, the frustration of his early vocational ambitions, and his identification of himself as a "bookish man". In the process, Carlisle reinterprets his famous crisis and his profoundly troubled relations with his father and wife. Carlisle then assesses Mill's attempts to found a science of character, which he called ethology. Carlisle views his ethological analysis of disenfranchised groups as the source of his most powerful challenges to his contemporaries. Taking Mill himself as a subject of ethological analysis, Carlisle also offers a new reading of "On Liberty", the work in which his social and political thinking reflects his obsessive concerns about his own intellectual stature. Finally, by treating Mill as an author who practiced the art of character, Carlisle examines his critical essays in relation to Romantic and Victorian theories about perception. This perspective also allows her to analyze the final chapter of Mill's autobiography in the context of the historical circumstances of his brief and belated role as a politician. In his writings, Carlisle argues, Mill rewrote his character and revised his experiences to approximate those of the French politicians he most revered.

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