In The Art of Distances, Corina Stan identifies an insistent preoccupation with interpersonal distance in a strand of twentieth-century European and Anglophone literature that includes the work of George Orwell, Paul Morand, Elias Canetti, Iris Murdoch, Walter Benjamin, Annie Ernaux, Günter Grass, and Damon Galgut. Specifically, Stan shows that these authors all engage in philosophical meditations, in the realm of literary writing, on the ethical question of how to live with others and how to find an ideal interpersonal distance at historical moments when there are no obviously agreed-upon social norms for ethical behavior.
Bringing these authors into dialogue with philosophers such as Michel de Montaigne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Helmuth Plessner, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Luc Nancy, Emmanuel Levinas, Peter Sloterdijk, Guillaume le Blanc, and Pierre Zaoui, Stan shows how the question of the right interpersonal distance became a fundamental one for the literary authors under consideration and explores what forms and genres they proposed in order to convey the complexity of this question. Albeit unknowingly, she suggests, they are engaged in fleshing out what Roland Barthes called “a science, or perhaps an art, of distances.”
Ethics, or the systematized set of inquiries and responses to the question “what should I do?” has infused the history of human narrative for more than two centuries. One of the foremost theorists of ethics during the twentieth century, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) radicalized the discipline of philosophy by arguing that “the ethical” is the foundational moment for human subjectivity, and that human subjectivity underlies all of Western philosophy. Levinas’s voice is crucial to the resurging global attention to ethics because he grapples with the quintessential problem of alterity or “otherness,” which he conceptualizes as the articulation of, and prior responsibility to, difference in relation to the competing movement toward sameness.
Academicians and journalists in Spain and abroad have recently fastened on an emerging cluster of peninsular writers who, they argue, pertain to a discernible literary generation, provisionally referred to as Generación X. These writers are distinct from their predecessors; they and their literary texts are closely related to the specific socio-political and historical circumstances in Spain; and their novels relate stories of more and less proximity, more and less responsibility, and more and less temporality. In short, they trace the temporal movement of alterity through narrative.
Published by Bucknell University Press. Distributed worldwide by Rutgers University Press.
Recasting the significance of Wittgenstein’s early philosophy for studies in literary modernism, as well as its afterlife in contemporary literature, A Different Order of Difficulty reveals the preoccupations his ideas share with his modernist contemporaries: an attention to the varieties of spiritual experience, an investment in age-old questions of life’s meaning, and a yearning for transfigurative shifts toward the right way of seeing the world.
Putting Wittgenstein in dialogue with modernism, Karen Zumhagen-Yekplé reads key works by Kafka, Woolf, Joyce, and Coetzee within the framework of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, as well as in light of his contemporaneous writings and recent critical thinking about his philosophy. She breaks with standard approaches to the Tractatus, interpreting it not as a theory of logic or metaphysics, but as a complex, mock-theoretical puzzle. This text, she shows, is a medium for an unorthodox brand of ethical instruction geared at engaging readers in the therapeutic clarification Wittgenstein saw as philosophy’s true work. Offering a new perspective on Wittgenstein as a philosophical modernist and the different orders of modernism’s trademark difficulty, this book is a compelling addition to studies of both Wittgenstein and modernist literature.
Poetry by Asian American writers has had a significant impact on the landscape of contemporary American poetry, and a book-length critical treatment of Asian American poetry is long overdue. In this groundbreaking book, Xiaojing Zhou demonstrates how many Asian American poets transform the conventional “I” of lyric poetry—based on the traditional Western concept of the self and the Cartesian “I”—to enact a more ethical relationship between the “I” and its others.
Drawing on Emmanuel Levinas’s idea of the ethics of alterity—which argues that an ethical relation to the other is one that acknowledges the irreducibility of otherness—Zhou offers a reconceptualization of both self and other. Taking difference as a source of creativity and turning it into a form of resistance and a critical intervention, Asian American poets engage with broader issues than the merely poetic. They confront social injustice against the other and call critical attention to a concept of otherness which differs fundamentally from that underlying racism, sexism, and colonialism. By locating the ethical and political questions of otherness in language, discourse, aesthetics, and everyday encounters, Asian American poets help advance critical studies in race, gender, and popular culture as well as in poetry.
The Ethics and Poetics of Alterity is not limited, however, to literary studies: it is an invaluable response to the questions raised by increasingly globalized encounters across many kinds of boundaries.
Marilyn Chin, Kimiko Hahn, Myung Mi Kim, Li Young Lee, Timothy Liu, David Mura, and John Yau
"In her lucid and persuasive study, Kate Fullbrook shows bow women writers from Edith Wharton to Toni Morrison have used their fiction to help restructure our ethical landscape. Her book insists on the useful truth that feminism, with its moral centre, has still much to offer the late twentieth century."
--Janet Todd, University of East Anglia
In this sensitive and incisive study of eleven major twentieth-century women novelists, Kate Fullbrook traces the ethical and aesthetic impulses that have shaped their fiction. The result is a profoundly important way of reading women writers in the light of a new ethics for women.
This book captures the sweep of women's literary achievement in the modern period and the impact of the radical new moral principles outlined in their fiction. The novelists included here are Edith Wharton, Willa Cather, Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Richardson, Djuna Barnes, Christina Stead, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, and Toni Morrison. Fullbrook treats them not only as major literary figures in their own right but also as part of a tradition of women's writing that has as its project nothing less than an attempt to shift the moral ideas of the modern world.
"This is an exciting, original, and informative study of twentieth-century women's fiction. It brings a vast amount of material together, yet manages never to lose or confuse the reader--always there is a clear line of argument. The approach is genuinely interdisciplinary in the best spirit of feminist inquiry and [Fullbrook's] readings are fresh and illuminating. Fullbrook's argument that these women writers restructure the ethical landscape by devising new patterns for measuring moral success or failure is persuasive. Her discussion of the way they rebuild from the philosophical rubble of relativism, the way they intervene at a moment of cultural disjunction to propose alternative futures, is convincing and important."
--Gayle Green, Scripps College
This work covers important and neglected ground—environmental language theory. Gilcrest poses two overarching questions: To what extent does contemporary nature poetry represent a recapitulation of familiar poetics? And, to what extent does contemporary nature poetry engage a poetics that stakes out new territory? He addresses these questions with important thinkers, especially Kenneth Burke, and considers such poets as Frost, Kunitz, Heaney, Ammons, Cardenal, and Rich.
In The Heart of Achilles, Graham Zanker addresses the task of reconstructing the ethical thought-world in which the characters of the Iliad live and move. It is only against this background, Zanker argues, that we can convincingly place the ethical status of the heroes and their actions. This in turn helps us to form a comprehensive view of the Iliad'scharacterization of its people, especially that of Achilles, by examining all his responses to the question of allegiance, the value of heroic prowess, and of life itself.
"[Zanker] investigates altruistic behavior in the epic with professional sophistication but in a way that makes his investigation available to a wide audience from undergraduates to advanced scholars. . . . [A] very useful interpretative study." --Choice
Graham Zanker is Senior Lecturer in Classics, University of Canterbury, New Zealand.
Alan Shapiro is not only a much-lauded poet but also one of America's most intelligent and clearheaded thinkers about poetry. In Praise of the Impure collects his passionate, rigorously argued essays on the situation of poetry in American culture today.
A noted philosopher and one of the most gifted and prolific novelists of the twentieth century, Iris Murdoch has anticipated and shaped many of the issues central to current ethics. These include the relation between human identity and ideas of the good, the effect of the modern critique of religion on moral thought, the relation between ethics and literature, and the contemporary debate about liberalism. In the most comprehensive engagement with Murdoch's work to date, this volume gathers contributions from philosophers, theologians, and a literary critic to explore the significance of her ideas for contemporary thought.
Inspired by Murdoch's tenacious wrestling with basic questions of human existence, these essays not only clarify her thoughts on human goodness, but also move beyond the academy to reflect on how we can and ought to undertake the human adventure in our daily lives.
Contributors are Charles Taylor, Martha Nussbaum, David Tracy, Cora Diamond, Maria Antonaccio, Elizabeth Dipple, Franklin I. Gamwell, Stanley Hauerwas, and William Schweiker. This volume also includes "Metaphysics and Ethics," a classic essay by Iris Murdoch.
Nobel Prize-winning novelist J. M. Coetzee is one of the most widely taught contemporary writers, but also one of the most elusive. Many critics who have addressed his work have devoted themselves to rendering it more accessible and acceptable, often playing down the features that discomfort and perplex his readers.
Yet it is just these features, Derek Attridge argues, that give Coetzee's work its haunting power and offer its greatest rewards. Attridge does justice to this power and these rewards in a study that serves as an introduction for readers new to Coetzee and a stimulus for thought for those who know his work well. Without overlooking the South African dimension of his fiction, Attridge treats Coetzee as a writer who raises questions of central importance to current debates both within literary studies and more widely in the ethical arena. Implicit throughout the book is Attridge's view that literature, more than philosophy, politics, or even religion, does singular justice to our ethical impulses and acts. Attridge follows Coetzee's lead in exploring a number of issues such as interpretation and literary judgment, responsibility to the other, trust and betrayal, artistic commitment, confession, and the problematic idea of truth to the self.
Walker Percy brought to his novels the perspective of both a doctor and a patient. Trained as a doctor at Columbia University, he contracted tuberculosis during his internship as a pathologist at Bellevue Hospital and spent the next three years recovering, primarily in TB sanitoriums. This collection of essays explores not only Percy’s connections to medicine but also the underappreciated impact his art has had—and can have—on medicine itself. The contributors—physicians, philosophers, and literary critics—examine the relevance of Percy’s work to current dilemmas in medical education and health policy. They reflect upon the role doctors and patients play in his novels, his family legacy of depression, how his medical background influenced his writing style, and his philosophy of psychiatry. They contemplate the private ways in which Percy’s work affected their own lives and analyze the author’s tendency to contrast the medical-scientific worldview with a more spiritual one. Assessing Percy’s stature as an author and elucidating the many ways that reading and writing can combine with diagnosing and treating to offer an antidote to despair, they ask what it means to be a doctor, a writer, and a seeker of cures and truths—not just for the body but for the malaise and diseased spirituality of modern times. This collection will appeal to lovers of literature as well as medical professionals—indeed, anyone concerned with medical ethics and the human side of doctoring.
Contributors. Robert Coles, Brock Eide, Carl Elliott, John D. Lantos, Ross McElwee, Richard Martinez, Martha Montello, David Schiedermayer, Jay Tolson, Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman
The plots of Homeric poems depend upon the uncertainty of Odysseus and Achilles getting what they want, while the endings imply that getting what one wants may itself be a disaster. By examining specific episodes of the Odyssey, Mark Buchan illustrates the centrality of hazard and doubt to decision-making, and argues that such uncertainty affects not only the heroes themselves, but also the world around them. Buchan goes on to introduce the paradoxes of female desire in the poems, uncovering the ways that female desire at once upholds and threatens the poems' heroic male ideology. Finally, The Limits of Heroism questions the interplay between desire and ideals of heroism, and finds that the poems critique the very ideology that motivates their heroes.
In Love and Ethics, Peter Nicholson offers a comprehensive and accessible reading of Gower's Confessio, as well as a guide to the issues that it poses, linking all of the diverse elements of Gower's complex poem into a single broad view of its purpose and structure. Beginning with an investigation of the literary antecedents of the poem, the author then distinguishes the Confessio from its predecessors in order to discover what is most unique about it. In viewing the Confessio both as a poem and as a work of moral instruction, Love and Ethics illustrates the work's concern with the laws that govern human love, and its understanding of the elusiveness of moral certainty in a fallen world.
Intended for both specialists and non-specialists, Love and Ethics addresses many of the specific concerns of current Gower criticism, provides complete translations of all foreign quotation, and guides the novice reader through Gower's Middle English.
Insisting on the vital, productive relationship between ethics and the study of literature, Love and Good Reasons demonstrates ways of reading novels and stories from a Christian perspective. Fritz Oehlschlaeger argues for the study of literature as a training ground for the kinds of thinking on which moral reasoning depends. He challenges methods of doing ethics that attempt to specify universally binding principles or rules and argues for the need to bring literature back into conversation with the most basic questions about how we should live.
Love and Good Reasons combines postliberal narrative theology—especially Stanley Hauerwas’s Christian ethics and Alasdair MacIntyre’s idea of traditional inquiry—with recent scholarship in literature and ethics including the work of Martha Nussbaum, J. Hillis Miller, Wayne Booth, Jeffrey Stout, and Richard Rorty. Oehlschlaeger offers detailed readings of literature by five major authors—Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, Henry James, and Stephen Crane. He examines their works in light of biblical scripture and the grand narratives of Israel, Jesus, and the Church. Discussing the role of religion in contemporary higher education, Oehlschlaeger shares his own experiences of teaching literature from a religious perspective at a state university.
Adam Zachary Newton Harvard University Press, 1995 Library of Congress PN49.N52 1995 | Dewey Decimal 809.39353
The ethics of literature, formalists have insisted, resides in the moral quality of a character, a story, perhaps the relation between author and reader. But in the wake of deconstruction and various forms of criticism focusing on difference, the ethical question has been freshly negotiated by literary studies, and to this approach Adam Newton brings a startling new thrust. His book makes a compelling case for understanding narrative as ethics. Assuming an intrinsic and necessary connection between the two, Newton explores the ethical consequences of telling stories and fictionalizing character, and the reciprocal claims binding teller, listener, witness, and reader in the process. He treats these relations as defining properties of prose fiction, of particular import in nineteenth- and twentieth-century texts.
Newton's fresh and nuanced readings cover a wide range of authors and periods, from Charles Dickens to Kazuo Ishiguro and Julian Barnes, from Herman Melville to Richard Wright, from Joseph Conrad and Henry James to Sherwood Anderson and Stephen Crane. An original work of theory as well as a deft critical performance, Narrative Ethics also stakes a claim for itself as moral inquiry. To that end, Newton braids together the ethical-philosophical projects of Emmanuel Levinas, Stanley Cavell, and Mikhail Bakhtin as a kind of chorus for his textual analyses--an elegant bridge between philosophy's ear and literary criticism's voice. His work will generate enormous interest among scholars and students of English and American literature, as well as specialists in narrative and literary theory, hermeneutics, and contemporary philosophy.
Table of Contents:
Narrative as Ethics Toward a Narrative Ethics We Die in a Last Word: Conrad's Lord Jimand Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio Lessons of (for) the Master: Short Fiction by Henry James Creating the Uncreated Features of His Face: Monstration in Crane, Melville, and Wright Telling Others: Secrecy and Recognition in Dickens, Barnes, and Ishiguro Conclusion
Reviews of this book: Newton's book will become a pivotal text in our discussions of the ethical implications of reading. He has taken into account a great deal of prior work, and written with judgment and wisdom. --Daniel Schwartz, Narrative
Reviews of this book: Newton offers elegant, provocative readings of texts ranging from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner to Winesburg, Ohio, The Remains of the Day, and Bleak House...Newton's book is a rich vein of critical ore that can be mined profitably. --Choice
Reading Narrative Ethics is a powerful experience, for it engages not just the intellect, but the emotions, and dare I say, the spirit. It stands apart from recent books on ethics in literature by virtue of its severe insistence o its allegiance to an alternative ethical tradition. This alternative way of thinking--and living--has its roots in the work of the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and finds support in the writings of Mikhail Bakhtin and Stanley Cavell...Stories, Newton asserts, are not ethical because of their morals or because of their normative logic. They are ethical because of the work they perform, in the social world, of binding teller, listener, witness, and reader to one another...This is a work of passion, integrity, commitment, and mission. --Jay Clayton, Vanderbilt University
Newton probes with admirable subtlety the key question: what do we gain--and what dangers do we run--when we fully enter the life of an 'other' through that 'other's' story? We have here a rare combination of deep and learned critical acumen with passionate love for literature and sensitivity to its nuances. --Wayne C. Booth, University of Chicago
Adam Zachary Newton writes with illuminating passion. Drawing on writers as diverse as Conrad and Henry James, Melville and Sherwood Anderson, Bakhtin and Levinas, he asks what it is to turn one's life into a story for another, and what it is to respond to, or avoid the claim of, another person's narration. He has written a wonderful, important book. --Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago
Since at least the time of Plato’s Republic, the relationship between poetry and ethics has been troubled. Through the prism of what has been called the “new” ethical criticism, inspired by the work of Emmanuel Levinas, G. Matthew Jenkins considers the works of Objectivists, Black Mountain poets, and Language poets in light of their full potential to reshape this ancient relationship.
American experimental poetry is usually read in either political or moral terms. Poetic Obligation, by contrast, considers the poems of Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, Edward Dorn, Robert Duncan, Susan Howe, and Lyn Hejinian in terms of the philosophical notion of ethical obligation to the Other in language. Jenkins's historical trajectory enables him to consider the full breadth of ethical topics that have driven theoretical debate since the end of World War II. This original approach establishes an ethical lineage in the works of twentieth-century experimental poets, creating a way to reconcile the breach between poetry and the issue of ethics in literature at large.
With implications for a host of social issues, including ethnicity and immigration, economic inequities, and human rights, Jenkins's imaginative reconciliation of poetry and ethics will provide stimulating reading for teachers and scholars of American literature as well as advocates and devotees of poetry in general. Poetic Obligation marshals ample evidence that poetry matters and continues to speak to the important issues of our day.
In this celebrated analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Michael J. Colacurcio presents a view of the author as America’s first significant intellectual historian. Colacurcio shows that Hawthorne’s fiction responds to a wide range of sermons, pamphlets, and religious tracts and debates—a variety of moral discourses at large in the world of provincial New England. Informed by comprehensive historical research, the author shows that Hawthorne was steeped in New England historiography, particularly the sermon literature of the seventeenth century. But, as Colacurcio shows, Hawthorne did not merely borrow from the historical texts he deliberately studied; rather, he is best understood as having written history. In The Province of Piety, originally published in 1984 (Harvard University Press), Hawthorne is seen as a moral historian working with fictional narratives—a writer brilliantly involved in examining the moral and political effects of Puritanism in America and recreating the emotional and cultural contexts in which earlier Americans had lived.
The Rose and Geryon
Gabriella I. Baika Catholic University of America Press, 2014 Library of Congress PQ1528.B25 2014 | Dewey Decimal 841.1
The Rose and Geryon examines patterns of verbal behavior in works by Jean de Meun and Dante (with a focus on the Romance of the Rose and the Divine Comedy) in relationship with the most influential systems of verbal sins in the Middle Ages, systems elaborated by William Peraldus, Thomas Aquinas, Domenico Cavalca, and Laurent of Orléans. The book begins with a presentation of these four systems, and from there proceeds to analyze Jean de Meun's Testament as a possible source of influence for the Divine Comedy and take a closer look at Dante's prose works in search for a comprehensive theory of sinful speech. Furthermore Baika discusses verbal transgressions such as flattery, evil counsel, double talk, sowing of discord, and falsifying of words, under the heading Lingua dolosa "The Guileful Tongue," and the relationship between violence and the poetic discourse. The myriad ways in which the two iconic poets of medieval France and Italy absorb the tradition of peccata linguae in their works prove that abusive speech was not the exclusive sphere of interest of the ecclesiastical writers; secular poetry in the vernacular enriched in original ways the medieval debate on verbal vices. The Rose and Geryon addresses scholars and students of French and Italian literatures, as well as readers interested in ethics and women's studies.
Seven Modes of Uncertainty
C. Namwali Serpell Harvard University Press, 2014 Library of Congress PN3347.S47 2014 | Dewey Decimal 809.39353
Literature is uncertain. Literature is good for us. These two ideas are often taken for granted. But what is the relationship between literature's capacity to perplex and its ethical value? Seven Modes of Uncertainty contends that literary uncertainty is crucial to ethics because it pushes us beyond the limits of our experience.
Many authors have been accused of betraying their loved ones by turning them into fictional characters. In The Treacherous Imagination, Robert McGill examines the ethics of writing such stories. He argues that while fiction has long appealed to readers with its narratives of private life, contemporary autobiographical fiction channels a widespread ambivalence about the value of telling all in a confessional age—an age in which fiction has an unprecedented power to leave people feeling libeled or exposed when they recognize themselves in it.
Observing that the interests of authors and their loved ones in such cases are often less divergent than they appear, McGill assess strategies by which both parties might use fiction not to hurt each other but to revise and revitalize intimacy. Discussing authors such as Philip Roth, Alice Munro, A. S. Byatt, and Hanif Kureishi, McGill questions whether people should always require exclusivity of each other with regard to the stories they tell about private life. Instead, authors and their intimates might jointly embrace fiction’s playful, transgressive qualities, even while reexamining the significance of that fiction’s intimations.
In treating autobiographical fiction as both a willful public indiscretion and a mediator of intimate relations, The Treacherous Imagination provides a comprehensive account of the various potentials that fiction holds to harm and to help those who write it, those who read it, and those who see themselves in it.
Nineteenth-century England witnessed an unprecedented increase in the number of publications and institutions devoted to the creation and the dissemination of knowledge: encyclopedias, scientific periodicals, instruction manuals, scientific societies, children’s literature, mechanics’ institutes, museums of natural history, and lending libraries. In Useful Knowledge Alan Rauch presents a social, cultural, and literary history of this new knowledge industry and traces its relationships within nineteenth-century literature, ending with its eventual confrontation with Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. Rauch discusses both the influence and the ideology of knowledge in terms of how it affected nineteenth-century anxieties about moral responsibility and religious beliefs. Drawing on a wide array of literary, scientific, and popular works of the period, the book focusses on the growing importance of scientific knowledge and its impact on Victorian culture. From discussions of Jane Webb Loudon’s The Mummy! and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, to Charlotte Brontë’s The Professor, Charles Kingsley’s Alton Locke, and George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss, Rauch paints a fascinating picture of nineteenth-century culture and addresses issues related to the proliferation of knowledge and the moral issues of this time period. Useful Knowledge touches on social and cultural anxieties that offer both historical and contemporary insights on our ongoing preoccupation with knowledge. Useful Knowledge will appeal to readers interested in nineteenth century history, literature, culture, the mediation of knowledge, and the history of science.
Ilana M. Blumberg The Ohio State University Press, 2013 Library of Congress PR468.R44B58 2013 | Dewey Decimal 823.809382
In Victorian Sacrifice: Ethics and Economics in Mid-Century Novels, Ilana Blumberg offers a major reconsideration of the central Victorian ethic of self-sacrifice, suggesting that much of what we have taken to be the moral psychology of Victorian fiction may be understood in terms of the dramatic confrontation between Christian theology and the world of modern economic theory. As Victorian writers Charlotte Mary Yonge, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, and Mary Augusta Ward strove to forge a practicable ethics that would reconcile the influences of an evangelical Christianity and its emphasis on selfless charity with the forces of laissez-faire capitalism and its emphasis on individual profit, they moved away from the cherished ideal of painful, solitary self-sacrifice in service of another’s good. Instead, Blumberg suggests, major novelists sought an ethical realism characterized by the belief that virtuous action could serve the collective benefit of the parties involved. At a mid-century moment of economic optimism, novelists transformed the ethical landscape by imagining what the sociologist Herbert Spencer would later call a “measured egoism,” an ethically responsible self-concern which might foster communal solidarity and material abundance.
Bringing the recent literary turns to ethics and to economics into mutual conversation, Blumberg offers us a new lens on a matter as pressing today as 150 years ago: the search for an ethics adequate to the hopes and fears of a new economy.