Postwar Academic Fiction: Satire, Ethics, Community

By Kenneth Womack | Go to book overview

11
Conclusion: Ethical Criticism and the Academic Novel beyond the Culture Wars

“I want to suggest a different metaphor for theoretical work: the metaphor of struggle, of wrestling with the angels. The only theory worth having is that which you have to fight off, not that which you speak with profound fluency.”

– Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies”

Despite the publication during the last decade of a number of volumes devoted to the humanistic study of literary works – a roster of monographs that includes David Parker's Ethics, Theory, and the Novel (1994), Martha C. Nussbaum's Poetic Justice: the Literary Imagination and Public Life (1995), Kim L. Worthington's Self as Narrative: Subjectivity and Community in Contemporary Fiction (1996), Colin McGinn's Ethics, Evil, and Fiction (1997), Robert Eaglestone's Ethical Criticism: Reading after Levinas (1998), and Geoffrey Galt Harpham's Shadows of Ethics: Criticism and the Just Society (1999) – ethical criticism must still successfully contend with several issues of historical and contemporary import in order to authenticate itself as a viable interpretive paradigm. Apart from continuing to underscore its usefulness to literary study, ethical criticism must effectively differentiate itself from the contemporary critical prejudice associated with the “traditional humanism” previously associated with such figures as F. R. Leavis and Northrop Frye. By also demonstrating its significant pedagogical value, as well as establishing itself as a meaningful – and remarkably interdisciplinary – component in the future of the theoretical project,

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