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Necessary evils: Authorship, ethics, and the reader in Blake, Dickens and Joyce

Rainsford, Dominic; (1994) Necessary evils: Authorship, ethics, and the reader in Blake, Dickens and Joyce. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis examines the ways in which William Blake, Charles Dickens, and James Joyce construct their ethical status as authors. Each of these writers became more and more aware, as his career progressed, of the weight of moral responsibility which he imposed upon himself by writing about social and individual ills which paralleled the experience of real people. As a result, each came to incorporate misgivings about his own moral authority into his writings in vivid and alarming ways. In each case, the author, or the idea of the author that the reader is encouraged to hold, becomes a microcosm or synecdoche of wider moral problems that exercise that author. The fact that Blake, Dickens, and Joyce have doubts about their own benignity does not disqualify them from entering the discourse of right and wrong behaviour, the examination of moral concepts which constitutes ethics: rather it is the necessary symptom of rigorous and powerful ethical thought, and offers the opportunity of making moral problems fully tangible and alive. The central argument of this thesis, in summary, is that Blake, Dickens, and Joyce earn a special credibility for the role of the author as moral observer and ethical thinker through linking a scrutiny of themselves to a similar scrutiny of the world around them. The main body of the thesis is devoted to exploring some of the many ways in which this linkage is achieved in individual texts. The thesis concludes with the claim that its ethically attuned approach to literary criticism is distinctly more realistic and challenging than many earlier humanist perspectives.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Necessary evils: Authorship, ethics, and the reader in Blake, Dickens and Joyce
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100590
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