Beyond ‘the limits and the terms’: narrative technique and ethical reading in the fiction of Ian McEwan. (2021)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Arts
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
In this thesis, I explore the link between narrative technique and ethical reading in the fiction of Ian McEwan. Specifically, I use narratological concepts to examine the way in which McEwan encourages an ethical approach to reading: one which does not seek to “interpret” via hermeneutic systems, but rather reads with an attitude of humility and openness. Furthermore, I explain how McEwan thematises the acts of reading and writing in order to investigate the ethical tensions present in the production and receipt of narratives, literary or otherwise. Finally, I discuss the moral dramas that McEwan stages throughout his fiction, suggesting a connection between his characters’ epistemic outlooks—the way they “read” the world—and their ethical conduct. I analyse these features of McEwan’s work through a number of close readings of his texts, including his first short story collection, First Love, Last Rites (1975), and his novels The Cement Garden (1978); Saturday (2005); Solar (2010); Enduring Love (1997); and Atonement (2001). Ultimately, I argue that McEwan’s fiction advocates for, and lends itself to, ethical reading: a practice which, while potentially unsettling and destabilising, rejuvenates our old modes of thinking about literature, and, indeed, the world around us.
RightsAll Rights Reserved
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