Date of Award

2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

Abstract

Reading Ethics hinges on the relationship between its two central terms, tracing how modernist narrative innovations reimagined reading as an ethical practice. To ask how we read is to return to a core question for the discipline. Building on recent reevaluations of reading methodologies by Rita Felski, Sharon Marcus and Stephen Best, and other scholars, I argue that modernist narrative forms foreground the ethical dynamics between text, reader, and world, asking readers to rethink how we understand the world even as they work to build new ones. Focusing on British and American modernist and meta-modernist fiction from writers such as Virginia Woolf, Nella Larson, Gertrude Stein, Nathanael West, and Teju Cole, my dissertation analyzes how modernist writers linked form to ethics by shifting our focus from epistemological concerns - what we get out of reading - to ontological concerns - who we get out of reading. Individual chapters emphasize narratives centered around scenes of reading while others emphasize how modernist narrative forms reorient our own scene of reading. In reframing the collaborative encounters between text and reader, these narratives introduce new strategies for rethinking our position both in the text and beyond. Locating ethical dynamics of response and responsibility at the heart of modernist aesthetics, Reading Ethics argues for a new understanding of the ways modernist narratives continue to shape how we read today.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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