The Ethics of Writing: Authorship and Responsibility in by Seán Burke

By Seán Burke

The moral query is the query of our occasions. inside of serious concept, it has excited about the act of studying. This examine reverses the phrases of inquiry to examine the moral composition of the act of writing. What accountability does an writer undergo for his legacy? Do 'catastrophic' misreadings of authors (e.g. Plato, Marx, Nietzsche) testify to authorial recklessness? those and different questions are the starting-point for the improvement of a conception of authorial ethics.

Beginning with a dialogue of Plato's argument in Phaedrus that writing is harmful since it can neither opt for its viewers nor name upon its writer to the rescue, Burke is going directly to examine the harmful video game which Nietzsche performed with posterity, and the ambiguous prestige of writing in the moral considered Emmanuel Levinas. At factor is how authors may perhaps safeguard opposed to 'deviant readings' and verify 'the chance of writing'. Burke recommends an ethic of 'discursive containment'.

Continuing the project of the 'returned author' all started in his pioneering booklet The loss of life and go back of the Author, Burke recommends the 'law of genre' as a freelance drawn up among writer and reader to set up moral accountability. feedback, lower than this agreement, turns into a moral realm and realm of the ethical.

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Extra info for The Ethics of Writing: Authorship and Responsibility in Plato, Nietzsche, Levinas

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A postmodern standpoint which has been called to wage war on totality and to reject grand narrative, the present work argues, increases the responsibility of the author to protect his or her discourse against dangerous or catastrophic misinterpretations. Such protective measures include respect of an ethics of signature, genre, of the cadre, the parergon and the contract which is established with the contemporaneous reader and the posthumous readerships which will carry forward the codicillary amendments to the textual estate.

At the same time this ‘critique’ relies on rudimentary devices of the fantastic – the anachronism, the revenant – to shape the terms of what should be the most serious debate. The prologue to this work, however, is unlikely to have negative ethical effects. It is not written by one who is or ever will be a cultural authority or even an author in any canonical sense of the term. Against the exploitative charge, one might invoke Adorno’s insistence that the categorical imperative of modernity is ‘[t]hat Auschwitz not be forgotten’.

Anonymity is not a value in itself but depends upon context: one and the same person might be in favour of anonymity in the case of a text like the Satanic Verses whilst being righteously concerned to identify the author of Mein Kampf. As for protecting the text from its author, the avoidance of reductive ad hominem arguments (literally, ‘arguments against the man’), by which biographical details are used to discredit the work, would be made impossible. That the Labour politician Tony Benn hailed from a wealthy background does not invalidate his Arguments for Socialism, any more than Jonathan Swift’s pettiness makes Gulliver’s Travels a petty book, or Philip Larkin’s racism deprives High Windows of aesthetic merit.

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