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American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions$
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Cindy Weinstein and Christopher Looby

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231156172

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231156172.001.0001

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What Maggie Knew

What Maggie Knew

Game Theory, The Golden Bowl, and the Critical Possibilities of Aesthetic Knowledge

(p.242) [11] What Maggie Knew
American Literature's Aesthetic Dimensions

Jonathan Freedman

Columbia University Press

This chapter presents a reading of Henry James's novel The Golden Bowl. It seeks to view James through that of economic theory, at least as economics has been theorized for the past five decades: abstractly, mathematically, even algebraically. Specifically, it attempts to weigh James's representation of human behavior in the light of economic game theory—roughly speaking, the attempt to describe in symbolic or mathematical terms the strategies or “moves” that individuals pursue as they compete against or cooperate with each other to achieve a certain goal or end. It suggests that James understands much of what game theory came to explore—and, more important, understood the things that game theory cannot address. The chapter aims to not just to explicate James, but to trace the outlines and integuments of the aesthetic itself, at least of its literary incarnation.

Keywords:   Henry James, The Golden Bowl, economic theory, economics, human behavior, game theory, aesthetics

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