Accident: A Philosophical and Literary History
An accidental glance at a newspaper notice causes Rousseau to collapse under the force of a vision. A car accidentally hits Giacometti, and he experiences an epiphany. Darwin introduces accident to the basic process of life, and Freud looks to accident as the expression of unconscious desire. Accident, Ross Hamilton claims, is the force that makes us modern. Tracing the story of accident from Aristotle to Buster Keaton and beyond, Hamilton’s daring book revives the tradition of the grand history of ideas.
Accident tells an original history of Western thought from the perspective of Aristotle’s remarkably durable categories of accident and substance. Throughout antiquity and the Middle Ages, Aristotle’s distinction underwrote an insistence on order and subordination of the inessential. In a groundbreaking innovation, Hamilton argues that after the Reformation, the concept of accident began to change places with that of substance: accident became a life-transforming event and effectively a person’s essence. For moderns, it is the accidental, seemingly trivial moments of consciousness that, like Wordsworth’s “spots of time,” create constellations of meaning in our lives. Touching on a broad array of images and texts—Augustine, Dante, the frescoes of Raphael, Descartes, Jane Austen, the work of the surrealists, and twentieth-century cinema—Hamilton provides a new way to map the mutations of personal identity and subjectivity.
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accidental events accidental qualities action aesthetic appears Aquinas argued Aristotelian Aristotle Aristotle's aspects asserted association Augustine Austen become believed body Breton Cambridge University Press cause century chance character Chicago concept context Crusoe cultural Daniel Deronda Dante Degas Derek Jarman Deronda Descartes Descartes's Diderot divine Divine Comedy Edgar Degas Eighteenth-Century Eliot emotions Essays Eucharist example existence experience film Freud function G. E. M. Anscombe George Eliot Hamlet Historical Ontology human ideas identity images individual interpretation Jacques Jarman knowledge literary Locke Locke's memory Metaphysics mind modern Montaigne Montaigne's moral Musil narrative nature notion novel Oedipus Oxford Pascal Pascal's Wager passions perception philosophical physical Plotinus Princeton University reader reading recognized role Rousseau scene Scholastic sensation sense shift signs Socrates soul spiritual Sterne sublime substance and accident surrealist theology theory things thought tion trans transformation transubstantiation Tristram Shandy understanding visual words Wordsworth writing York