Disinterested Agency in Hazlitt and Keats
This chapter explores Hazlitt's belief that a concern for the imaginative capacities of ethical debate turns us to the virtuality of social relations, and that it is precisely in the dynamic between self-constitution and differentiation that an ethically charged social inquiry is formed. Indeed, it is by insisting on the tenuousness of our various conceptualizations of “self,” “subject,” “individuality,” and “reality” that Hazlitt comes to claim the most negating effects of the imagination as its most forceful facets. The chapter also discusses Keats's negative poetics of self-dissolution. It illustrates the connections between an ethics of disinterest or impersonal self-divestiture and an aesthetics of lyrical anonymity—what Keats would famously call “negative capability.”
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