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What is the relationship between literary criticism and ethics? Does criticism have an ethical task? How can criticism be ethical after literary theory? Ethical Criticism seeks to answer these questions by examining the historical development of the ethics of criticism and the vigorous contemporary backlash against what is known as 'theory'. The book appraises current arguments about the ethics of criticism and, finding them wanting, turns to the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Described as 'the greatest moral philosopher of the twentieth century', Levinas' thought has had a profound influence on a number of significant contemporary thinkers. By paying close attention to his major writings, Robert Eaglestone argues cogently and persuasively for a new understanding of the ethical task of criticism and theory.
A welcome illustration of the pertinence of Levinas to current debates about the ethical value of literature and reading. Levinas is a difficult writer, and Eaglestone succeeds in explicating key Levinasian ideas about the saying and the said in ways that will help literary critics and theorists build productive conceptual links between this enormously stimulating thinker and other voices among those concerned with the ethical dimension of reading.
Eaglestone's book breaks new ground...the information provided helped me further understand Levinas within the tradition of a philosophy that would at one time reject the aesthetic, but simultaneously use the asethetic example to make many of its points.