Reading and Responding: Literature, Ethics and Citizenship

Bedford, Alison ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6708-9896 (2017) Reading and Responding: Literature, Ethics and Citizenship. In: Reading and Writing in the 21st Century Literary Studies Classroom: Theory and Practice, 6 July - 8 July 2017, Brisbane, Australia.

[img]
Preview
Text (Submitted Version)
Reading and Responding Literature, Ethics and Citizenship BEDFORD (1).pdf

Download (222kB) | Preview

Abstract

Martha Nussbaum’s argument that literature cultivates 'powers of imagination that are essential to citizenship' centres on literature as a vehicle for empathy. Yet Suzanne Keen suggests 'a society that insists on receiving immediate ethical and political yields from the recreational reading of its citizens puts too great a burden on both empathy and the novel' (168). While Nussbaum and Keen offer differing positions on the social function of literature, both focus on its ethical function, suggesting reading should affect readers’ sense of responsibility to others in society. As Harpham describes, 'Ethics is the arena in which the claims of otherness - the moral law, the human other, cultural norms, the Good-in-itself etc. - are articulated and negotiated' (394). This paper will offer a reading of Mary Shelley as a Foucauldian founder of discourse. In doing so, it will argue that Shelley established a new way for readers to navigate ethical questions: Frankenstein results in the reader responding to 'the claims of otherness' precisely because Shelley does not provide them with a response - she leaves it to the reader to decide which ethical consideration takes primacy. She 'articulates' but allows the reader to 'negotiate'. It is this new discourse, most often articulated through the genre of science fiction which explores 'who we are and might be' (Nussbaum, 2323), that results only not in an empathetic response but in an ethical one. Literature, and particularly the unanswered ‘what if?’ of science fiction as established by Shelley, provides readers the space to engage with the ethical demands of their citizenry.


Statistics for USQ ePrint 50682
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Speech)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: Historic - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication (1 Jul 2013 - 28 Feb 2019)
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2022 05:35
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2022 04:33
Uncontrolled Keywords: ethics, Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, literature, empathy, citizenry, literature
Fields of Research (2020): 47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4702 Cultural studies > 470208 Culture, representation and identity
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4705 Literary studies > 470504 British and Irish literature
47 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 4702 Cultural studies > 470207 Cultural theory
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1303 Ethics > 130304 Social ethics
13 CULTURE AND SOCIETY > 1302 Communication > 130203 Literature
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/50682

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only