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Another Kind of Light: A Loving Attention in Modern British and Irish Fiction

LEE, CHERYL,JULIA,WEI,LING (2019) Another Kind of Light: A Loving Attention in Modern British and Irish Fiction. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This dissertation positions itself in relation to the long-running dialogue between philosophy and literature as it has evolved in recent decades. It is a study of how the kind of sometimes immersive, sometimes perplexing uncertainty involved in reading literary texts can be seen as exemplary of and an analogue to the mystery of lived experience, embodied as it is in the human other; and how a critical engagement with this aspect of the reading process might inform the way we conduct our ethical relations. Refracting this matter through the lens of aesthetic form, I draw on the work of a range of thinkers—including Emmanuel Levinas, Jacques Derrida, Simone Weil, Mikhail Bakhtin, and Roland Barthes—to read the novels of Iris Murdoch, Ann Quin, Aidan Higgins, Alan Hollinghurst, and Ali Smith. Through a discussion of these fictional works of romantic love, I posit a new kind of ethical, loving attention to the world that respects and responds to the mystery inherent in experience.
The thesis begins by redefining ethics, in light of modern intellectual thought, as always exceeding morality. This facilitates the adjustment of the parameters of ethical inquiry in order to reclaim space for the aesthetic. Framing ethics as a problem of aesthetic form, the thesis goes on to consider the implications of this proposition by examining what constitutes an ethical image. Concluding that an aspect of blindness is essential to ethical perspective, the potential of literary works to illuminate this notion of blindness-as-seeing is then considered and a category of literature, blind literature, is proposed as a kind of writing which exemplifies it. The thesis concludes by considering how this newly defined ethical perspective might be seen to constitute an aesthetic activity that takes place in part in the dark and is a formal accomplishment of beauty.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Aesthetics; Literature and ethics; Blindness; Iris Murdoch; Ann Quin; Aidan Higgins; Alan Hollinghurst; Ali Smith
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Aug 2019 14:55

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