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Marilyn Edelstein: Love, Literature, and Morality
"A book can be moral if it raises moral questions even if it doesn't provide moral answers." That's the view of Marilyn Edelstein, associate professor of English at Santa Clara University, who leads her students through novels such as Lolita, Slaughterhouse-Five, and Beloved, with an emphasis on the ethical issues each addresses.
Edelstein finds a resurgence of interest in the question of ethics among those in literary studies. In July, she gave a paper at the International Conference on Literature and Ethics at the University of Wales. Entitled "What's Love Got to Do With Postmodernism?" the paper "examines the possibility of a postmodern ethics based on love and hope," she says.
She has also written on John Gardner's book On Moral Fiction, which raised the hackles of writers and literary scholars when it appeared in 1978, condemning contemporary art as amoral or immoral. Gardner had been regarded as an avant-garde writer, but his demand that novels be life-affirming and address universal values seemed old-fashioned and preachy to many critics, Edelstein says.
Edelstein believes that Gardner's argument was dismissed too quickly. Her paper, "Ethics and Contemporary American Literature: Revisiting the Controversy Over John Gardner's On Moral Fiction" delivered last November at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association Conference will appear in the association's journal, Pacific Coast Philology.
Edelstein is also hoping to develop a course on ethics and literature. "If you don't believe literature can have a positive effect on people," she says, "why in the world would you devote your life to teaching it?"
|Issues in Ethics - V. 7, N. 3 Fall 1996|
|Demonizing Our Opponents|
|on the one hand|
|May the Best...Woman Win|
|The Common Ground Project|
|a case in point|
|The Sole Remaining Supplier|
|Responses to the Case of the Long-Distance Cancer Treatment|
|Responses to the Case of Maria Elena|
|a good read|
|A Testament to Ethics|
|Another Kind of Justice: SCU Trip Spurs Ethical Reflection|
|letters to the editor|
|Immigration Threatens California|
|Close the Back Door|
|Is Defense of Wife Abuser Ethical?|
|Uelman Piece Thought-Provoking|
|A Perfect Resource|
|scholars at work|
|Marilyn Edelstein: Love, Literature, and Morality|
|Dennis Moberg: Employee Virtue, Employee Vice|
|at the center|
|Strategic Plan Takes Us Into 2001|
|Presidential Professor William Spohn|
|Ethics, Courts, and the Mass Media|
|issues in ethics tools|