THE COMPANY WE KEEP: An Ethics of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth
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THE COMPANY WE KEEP: An Ethics of Fiction

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Vast, ecumenical defense and reappraisal of the Old Guard Humanist/Subjectivist critical line in literary criticism. Booth (English/U. of Chicago; The Rhetoric of Fiction) goes for it all here, invoking and assimilating everyone from Plato to new feminist criticism in reprivileging the notion of an ethical criticism. Taking quite seriously the spirit of I.A. Richards' claim that ""Poetry is capable of saving us,"" Booth wends his way through the literary history of the world--from Genesis to Jaws--to explain and demonstrate the way narrative literally acts on our souls. Booth essentially consecrates the experience of literature, praising authors and books that provide ""a richer and fuller life than I could manage on my own,"" and invents his own neologism--""coduction""--to define the act of reading ethically, relatively, openly. This bit of critical sleight of hand--since there is little new about Booth's methodology but the term he invents for it--is then extended into virtually every area of critical thought. He examines the rise and fall of ethical criticism, the relationship of critical ethics to other ideological models like Marxism and feminism, and conducts a sometimes dazzling rhetorical analysis of metaphor and cosmology. The book finally settles down into application in the closing chapters, where Booth tests his paradigm against the works of Jane Austen, D.H. Lawrence, and, in a truly inspired revisionist reading, Huckleberry Finn. More earnest than original, comprehensive than precise, Booth nevertheless delivers up a profound and timely treatise that will cheer traditionalists, annoy revisionists, and without fail refuel critical debate among literary theorists of every stripe.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1988
ISBN: 0520062108
Publisher: Univ. of California Press