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In The Company We Keep, Wayne C. Booth argues for the relocation of ethics to the center of our engagement with literature.
But the questions he asks are not confined to morality. Returning ethics to its root sense, Booth proposes that the ethical critic will be interested in any effect on the ethos, the total character or quality of tellers and listeners. Ethical criticism will risk talking about the quality of this particular encounter with this particular work. Yet it will give up the old hope for definitive judgments of "good" work and "bad." Rather it will be a conversation about many kinds of personal and social goods that fictions can serve or destroy. While not ignoring the consequences for conduct of engaging with powerful stories, it will attend to that more immediate topic, What happens to us as we read? Who am I, during the hours of reading or listening? What is the quality of the life I lead in the company of these would-be friends?
Through a wide variety of periods and genres and scores of particular works, Booth pursues various metaphors for such engagements: "friendship with books," "the exchange of gifts," "the colonizing of worlds," "the constitution of commonwealths." He concludes with extended explorations of the ethical powers and potential dangers of works by Rabelais, D. H. Lawrence, Jane Austen, and Mark Twain.
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Wayne C. Booth (1921-2005) was George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor of English at the University of Chicago.From Library Journal:
Building on the Aristotelianism of his The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961) and the critical pluralism of his Critical Understanding ( LJ 6/1/79), Booth argues that fictional characters provide alternatives for the social roles we play. In some stories we find virtuous examples of behavior, in others reprehensible ones. Readers discover the difference through "coduction," that is, evaluative conversation. Booth's project has limitations, such as his reliance on a form of social psychology that he inadequately defines. Still, he frankly discusses Rabelais's sexism and Twain's racism, and he eschews mystifying and seducing jargon. Mark Hurlbert, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania, Ind.
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Book Description University of California Press, 1992. Hardcover. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P110520062035
Book Description University of California Press, 1992. Hardcover. Condition: New. Seller Inventory # DADAX0520062035