"Destitute of Frank communicativeness": Reading the reserve of John Stuart Mill's autobiography

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Using Wittgenstein's conception of "forms of life," this essay argues that the deliberately and remarkably impersonal style of John Stuart Mill's Autobiography is a way of dramatizing and making known a life bereft of ordinary relations, of access to ordinary language and practice in the most ordinary forms of intimacy and exhange. Rather than reading the text as an excercise in repression and omission, the most disturbing and revealing facts of Mill's life story are shown to lie on the very surface of the work - in the consistent idiosyncracies of its idiom. Such a reading places the Autobiography in a potentially constructive relation to Mill's philosophy, for the formative everyday engagement with others so absent in the childhood Mill records is precisely the element he would identify as a crucial deficiency within Benthamism and a critical element in any ethnical account of human motives, interest, and ends.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-73
Number of pages23
JournalProse Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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