Fictional Characters, Real Problems: The Search for Ethical Content in Literature

Hardcover | April 23, 2016

EditorGarry L. Hagberg

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Literature is a complex and multifaceted expression of our humanity of a kind that is instructively resistant to simplification; reduction to a single element that would constitute literature's defining essence would be no more possible than it could be genuinely illuminating. Yet onedimension of literature that seems to interweave itself throughout its diverse manifestations is still today, as it has been throughout literary history, ethical content. This striking collection of new essays, written by an international team of philosophers and literary scholars, pursues a fullerand richer understanding of five of the central aspects of this ethical content. After a first section setting out and precisely articulating some particularly helpful ways of reading for ethical content, these five aspects include: (1) the question of character, its formation, and its role in moral discernment; (2) the power, importance, and inculcation of what we might callpoetic vision in the context of ethical understanding and that special kind of vision's importance in human life; (3) literature's distinctive role in self-identity and self-understanding; (4) an investigation into some patterns of moral growth and change that can emerge from the philosophicalreading of literature; and (5) a consideration of the historical sources and genealogies of some of our most central contemporary conceptions of the ethical dimension of literature. In addition to Jane Austen, whose work we encounter frequently and from multiple points of view in this engaging collection, we see Greek tragedy, Homer, Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, E. M. Forster, Andre Breton, Kingsley Amis, Joyce Carol Oates, William Styron, J. M. Coetzee, and David FosterWallace, among others. And the philosophers in this five-strand interweave include Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, Shaftesbury, Kant, Hegel, Freud, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Gadamer, Levinas, and a number of recent figures from both Anglophone and continental contexts. All in all, this richcollection presents some of the best new thinking about the ethical content that lies within literature, and it shows why our reflective absorption in literature is the humane - and humanizing - experience many of us have long taken it to be.

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Literature is a complex and multifaceted expression of our humanity of a kind that is instructively resistant to simplification; reduction to a single element that would constitute literature's defining essence would be no more possible than it could be genuinely illuminating. Yet onedimension of literature that seems to interweave its...

Garry L. Hagberg is the James H. Ottaway Professor of Philosophy and Aesthetics at Bard College, and has in recent years also been Professor of Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. Author of numerous papers at the intersection of aesthetics and the philosophy of language, his books include Meaning and Interpretation: Wittgenste...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:416 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.1 inPublished:April 23, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198715714

ISBN - 13:9780198715719

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Table of Contents

Garry L. Hagberg: Introduction: Five Ethical Aspects of LiteraturePart I: Ways of Reading for Ethical Content1. Nora Hamalainen: Sophie, Antigone, Elizabeth: Rethinking Ethics by Reading Literature2. Eileen John: Caring about Characters3. Robert B. Pierce: Hamlet and the Problem of Moral AgencyPart II: Matters of Character4. Garry L. Hagberg: Othello's Paradox: The Place of Character in Literary Experience5. Noel Carroll: Character, Social Information, and the Challenge of Psychology6. Valerie Wainwright: Emma's Extravagance: Jane Austen and the Character-Situation DebatePart III: Literature, Subjectivity, and Poetic Vision7. Richard Eldridge: The Question of Truth in Literature8. J. Jeremy Wisnewski: The Moral Relevance of Literature and the Limits of Argument: Lessons from Heidegger, Aristotle, and Coetzee9. Jonathan Strauss: An Endless Person: Heidegger, Breton, and Nadja at the Limits of LanguagePart IV: Language, Dialogical Identity, and Self-Understanding10. Tony Gash: The Dialogic Self in Hamlet: On How Dramatic Form Transforms Philosophical Inquiry11. Richard Dawson: 'The Power of Conversation': Jane Austen's Persuasion and Hans-Georg Gadamer's Philosophical Hermeneutics12. Stephen Mulhall: Quartet: Wallace's Wittgenstein, Moran's AmisPart V: Patterns and Possibilities of Moral Growth13. Alan Goldman: Moral Development in Pride and Prejudice14. Daniel Brudney: The Breadth of Moral Character15. Mitchell S. Green: Learning to be Good (or Bad) in (or Through) LiteraturePart VI: Historical Genealogies of Moral-Aesthetic Concepts16. Humberto Brito: In Praise of Aristotle's Poetics17. Martin Donougho: Shaftesbury as Virtuoso: Or, The Birth of Aesthetics Out of a Spirit of Civility18. Jules Brody: Fate, Philology, FreudIndex