Monday, July 25, 2016

Little Old Ladies 2: “Janet, Donkeys!”—Dickens’ Betsey Trotwood and Sundry Other Imposing Females

Did you miss me, dear Internet?

After a long absence I return to my blog refreshed and ready to return to my derailed character analysis series, “Little Old Ladies.” What started out as a comparison of all the Imposing Aunts in fiction slowly expanded to include the other non-matriarchal elder females in fiction.  And what I found when I widened this lens was fascinating. Remember, most literature written pre-1960’s—which also happens to be the majority of my reading material—looks at women from a prefemenist point of view, a perspective that women were in some way weaker than men. And the reality was not much different from that perspective: according to law and social convention, women’s property was their husband’s, their rights were constricted according to what their male relatives allowed them to practice, and their lives were not their own to control.

So although characters like Catherine de Bourgh, the various “mean” aunts with names like Dahlia, Agatha, Augusta, etc., and Miss Havisham are all “negative” characters, in one way they are positive: they show strong women standing up for themselves, exercising powers that women of their day weren’t supposed to have.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Happiness for Its Own Sake: Aristotle’s Concept of Eudaimonia in "The Nicomachean Ethics"

According to modern definitions of ‘happiness,’ it is a state of feeling some sort of emotion that results from pleasure. A happy person has a positive outlook on life, often is socially outgoing and popular with other people, and often is seen as successful or having some reason to be happy. This modern perspective on happiness predispositions readers from understanding concepts of happiness as set forth by classical philosophers such as Aristotle.

Contrasting modern definitions, Aristotle’s concept of happiness is not of a fleeting emotion, but rather a representative of the entire course of a person’s life. It is not a sense of feeling in which the subject of happiness is passive, but rather a form of action in which the subject controls whether he is happy or not. Happiness is a goal, a lifelong pursuit, characterized by the definition of its Greek word, eudaimonia, which translates not only to “happiness,” but also to “human flourishing” or “success.”