The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book The Self-Deceiving Muse

The Self-Deceiving Muse

Notice and Knowledge in the Work of Art Alan Singer
  • Copyright: 2010
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 240 pages
  • Illustrations: 11 b&w illustrations
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-03721-9
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-04846-8
  • Series Name: Literature and Philosophy
“Raising the scandalous proposition that the ’self-deceiver’ should be seen less as the condemnable antagonist of Reason than as the perpetrator of the active imagination that gives rise to genuine aesthetic experience, Singer tests his claim with a series of brilliant arguments grounded in literary, philosophical, and art studies extending from familiar classics—Parmigianino, Tintoretto, Flaubert, and Hegel—to such moderns as Jeff Wall, Bill Viola, Gerhard Richter, and Peter Greenaway. The Self-Deceiving Muse should add significantly to contemporary debate on the relations between reason, aesthetics, and ethics in a language thoroughly conversant with recent critical theory.”

Current philosophical discussions of self-deception remain steeped in disagreement and controversy. In The Self-Deceiving Muse, Alan Singer proposes a radical revision of our commonplace understanding of self-deception. Singer asserts that self-deception, far from being irrational, is critical to our capacity to be acute "noticers" of our experience. The book demonstrates how self-deception can be both a resource for rational activity generally and, more specifically, a prompt to aesthetic innovation. It thereby provides new insights into the ways in which our imaginative powers bear on art and life. The implications—philosophical, aesthetic, and ethical—of such a proposition indicate the broadly interdisciplinary thrust of this work, which incorporates "readings" of novels, paintings, films, and video art.

Alan Singer is Professor of English at Temple University. His previous books include Aesthetic Reason: Artworks and the Deliberative Ethos (Penn State, 2003).


List of Illustrations



1 The Self-Deceiving Muse

2 Illusionism and the Self-Deceiving I

3 Learning from Self-Deception

4 Being Out of Character / Normativizing Self-Deception

5 Picturing Self-Deception

6 Spelling Out the Viewer

7 Shameless Self-Deception




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