Moral Complexities in Turn of the Millennium British Literature offers a critical analysis of moral complexity and social responsibility in works by Kazuo Ishiguro, Patrick McGrath, Graham Swift, Andrea Levy, and Jeanette Winterson. Mara Reisman argues that through their writing, these authors reveal and upset literary, cultural, and political fictions and encourage readers to think carefully about language, power, community, and social justice. The book examines moral issues in two different ways: how books by these authors address morally complex social, political, and cultural issues and how their books serve a moral function by challenging readers to be socially engaged. Reisman provides an in-depth analysis of The Remains of the Day, Asylum, The Light of Day, Small Island, and The Daylight Gate and uses these books to discuss twentieth- and twenty-first-century British politics and culture. These books address a wide variety of issues often associated with moral judgments: war, racism, adultery, maternal neglect, murder, professional misconduct, witchcraft, and religion. Despite this diversity and settings that range from the seventeenth century to the late twentieth century, these books include similar arguments about how empathy, personal responsibility, and civic engagement can create more productive social relations and a less divided world.
Mara Reisman is professor of British literature and women’s literature at Northern Arizona University.
Chapter One: History, Morality, and Social Responsibility in Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day
Chapter Two: Destabilizing Institutional and Social Power in Patrick McGrath’s Asylum
Chapter Three: The Language of Transgression and Empathy in Graham Swift’s The Light of Day
Chapter Four: Negotiating Identity and Building Community in Andrea Levy’s Small Island
Chapter Five: Subverting Cultural and Political Power in Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate
About the Author
Moral Complexities skilfully addresses the moral imperative of turn-of-the-millennium British literature through a detailed analysis of five contemporary authors and their novels. The book is a welcome contribution to the study of literary ethics and will be relevant to scholars and students researching the moral responsibilities of the contemporary writer. This timely and illuminating work attests not only to the novel’s role in exploring the complexities and multiplicities of a wide variety of social and political issues but also to its ability to model a non-judgemental and empathetic attitude that encourages readers’ engagement with new ideas and personal and social responsibility.
A valuable and engaging analysis of key texts by five important British writers, Moral Complexities examines with great clarity and depth how writers address questions of moral urgency. Identifying various ethical and narrative strategies, it persuasively navigates complex issues of social justice and individual responsibility and provides a powerful argument for the novel’s capacity to encourage readers to think deeply about embedded power systems. The author clearly and concisely places each work within a series of critical debates around moral authority and individual responsibility. Moral Complexities provides new perspectives on familiar novels and would benefit any student or general reader of contemporary British fiction.