Writing and Responsibility

Writing and Responsibility

Writing and Responsibility

Writing and Responsibility


In a world where literary scandals often end up in court, the issue of responsibility in writing has never been more important. In this groundbreaking study, Carl Tighe asks the questions every writer needs to consider:*What is it that writers do? Are they responsible for all the uses to which their writing might be put? Or no more responsible than their readers?*How are a writer's responsibilities compromised or defined by commercial or political pressures, or by notions of tradition or originality?*How does a writer's audience affect their responsibilities? Are these the same for writers in all parts of the world, under all political and social systems?The first part of this book defines responsibility and looks at its relation to ideas such as power, accuracy, kitsch and political correctness. The second part examines how particular writers have dealt with these issues through a series of often-controversial case studies, including American Psycho, Crash and The Tin Drum. Writing and Responsibility encourages its readers to interrogate the choices they make as writers. A fascinating look at the public consequences of the private act of writing, Carl Tighe's book is a must-read for everyone who writes or studies writing.


This first chapter is about writing as a private act with public consequences. It looks at the history of writing, and the global, personal and ethical dilemmas writers deal with, questioning the role of the writer in contemporary society.

This chapter sees writing as 'rendering an account'. It asks what writers are responsible for, and to whom they are responsible. It also highlights some of the issues writers ask themselves about their work and explores the broad social and political concerns writers take into consideration when making artistic decisions.

You're pleasing yourself when you're writing. You're not pleasing a bunch of other people. You're not constructing a little candy house, or a little gingerbread house that everyone can take a piece of and feel sweet and nice and that makes them feel good about themselves…Writing a book is actually a very selfish and very aggressive thing. You're writing this book and putting it out there and it says: Read me! Read me! Read me!

(Bret Easton Ellis (Clarke 1996/98))

Rendering accounts

In the three-million-year history of the human species, writing is a relatively recent development. We can trace its origins to Stone Age tally sticks and clay tokens dating from about 8000 BC, and to cave painting, but writing proper seems to have developed only about 3500-2600 BC (Schmandt-Besserat 1992). Although many of the earliest surviving examples have yet to be deciphered, it is clear that writing is connected to palace culture, rule and order, keeping accounts, tracking stores, enabling survival. Without writing, how could we map our territories or record good hunting areas? How could we order armies to move, make laws and regulations or keep

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