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.
Robert Eaglestone teaches at Royal Holloway, University of London.
Introduction - the uncertain topography of criticism; ethics and the end of criticism?; the dialogue between perception and rule - Martha Nussbaum; reading (:) the ethnics of deconstructive criticism; "cold splendour" - Levinas' suspicion of art; "what is hecuba home?" - language beyond being and the task of criticism.