Literature Criticism Ethics: An Introductory Essay with Some Personal Reflections

By Cervigni, Dino S. | Annali d'Italianistica, Annual 2001 | Go to article overview

Literature Criticism Ethics: An Introductory Essay with Some Personal Reflections


Cervigni, Dino S., Annali d'Italianistica


I began writing this essay on September 10, 2001. I returned to it on the morning of the following day, September 11, when my wife called me from her office, telling me frantically to turn the TV on. For the next several hours, I followed on the screen what journalists immediately called the most tragic and disastrous military attack on the United States of America since Pearl Harbor in 1941. As I, together with all people of good will, mourn and pray for the countless victims of such a horrific tragedy and condemn all forms of violence for whatever purpose and cause, I have also become convinced, more so than ever before, of the ethical imperative incumbent upon all people, individually and collectively, and of the special privilege and duty befalling all of us, as educators, to become aware of its far-reaching implications in all aspects of our profession. I also invite all of you to work for peace and join me in a sincere prayer for peace: a deeply felt invocation addressed to the Almighty, each other, and the entire world community, best expressed in the following words of the Bible: "[...] pax in terra hominibus bonae voluntatis" ("[...] peace on earth to people of good will" Luke 2:14).

1. Literature Criticism Ethics: The Ethical Imperative (2)

This 2001 issue of Annali d'italianistica, devoted to the study of the interconnections of literature, criticism, and ethics, is the most challenging of the journal's nineteen monographic volumes published thus far. All of us easily comprehend the reasons of this great challenge. It is due neither to literature nor the practice of criticism, for we, as scholars of literature and practitioners of various critical approaches, always accept, even welcome, the difficulties arising from our scholarly investigations; rather, it is due to the third dimension added by the 2001 issue of AdI, to the reciprocal interplay of literature and criticism, namely, ethics. The study of the ethical implications connected with the analysis of literature, the practice of criticism, and our profession as educators, in fact, makes most of us feel somewhat uneasy, just as, or even more so than, the study of the sacred and religious aspects of literature and poetry does. (3)

And yet, as people who live in a community and depend on human society, we cannot escape the ethical issue. Simply stated, ethics concerns everything we do as humans, as can be easily understood even from the term's strict etymological explanation, whether we employ the one derived from Greek (ethics < ethos) or from Latin (moral < mos, moris), both terms connoting the "custom," "habit," and "habitual character" of people. Any attempt at placing ourselves outside or beyond the ethical sphere, therefore, would be tantamount to situating ourselves outside or even above the human community. The question, nevertheless, remains whether the ethical issue that confronts all of us every day of our lives, is immanent to our nature as individuals and to the human community within which we live, or, rather, whether this ethical issue transcends each and all of us because it comes from outside or above us; or, also, whether it originates in each and all of us, individually and collectively, while also finding its superior or ultimate sanction outside each and all of us, in the supernatural and divine. (4)

The interplay of literature, criticism, and ethics has always been present, albeit in varying degrees, in Italy's literary culture, since its medieval beginnings, rooted in the Western ancient and Judeo-Christian traditions, until contemporary times, during which we have experienced an explosion and implosion of--isms, whose dizzying effects have illumined a few of us, alienated several, and confused many.

Then, today, deeply shaken by the tragedy that has affected the United States of America and the civilized world, we are forced to reflect upon our role as educators and scholars and to understand the connections inextricably linking the artistic product, its critical assessment, and the moral issue inseparable from all human undertakings. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Literature Criticism Ethics: An Introductory Essay with Some Personal Reflections
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.