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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter April 15, 2014

"Who Lets a Big Question Upset His Small, Safe World?": British Postmodern Realism and the Question of Ethics

  • Stef Craps


Criticism of British postmodern realist fiction has long been marked by an almost'total disregard for ethics. The reason why critics investigating the antirepresentational strategies characterizing the work of such writers as Peter Ackroyd, Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Graham Swift have for the most part remained silent about its ethical status is the widespread belief that ethics is incompatible with a questioning stance towards representation. The few academic critics who (claim to) have discovered some sort of ethical value in the self-reflexive, theoretically sophisticated fictions produced by these writers are liberal-humanists working in the ArnoldianLeavisite tradition, who, in their search for moral truths, appear to be oblivious to specifically postmodern textual practices that block easy access to meaning. Taking its cue from the deconstructive type of ethical criticism that came to the fore in the 1990s, this article suggests an alternative to both the textualist neglect and the liberalhumanist misrecognition of the ethics of British postmodern realism. Through a reading of Graham Swift's 1992 novel Ever After, it shows that postmodern realist fiction has an ethical dimension qua' postmodern realist fiction; an ethical dimension that cannot be reduced to the promulgation of traditional moral values but rather has to be conceived as the elaboration of a post-humanist, non-foundational ethics of alterity.

Online erschienen: 2014-4-15
Erschienen im Druck: 2006-7-1

© 2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston

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