Ethics and Literature

  • Liesbeth Korthals AltesEmail author
  • Hanna Meretoja


This chapter discusses a range of approaches to the intersections of literature and ethics. After a brief historical perspective on debates waged in relation to literature and ethics, a number of approaches are presented that are characteristic of the ethical turn: criticism inspired by the neo-Aristotelian humanist tradition in moral philosophy, rhetorical criticism, poststructuralist and deconstructive criticism, social and cultural criticism, and criticism rooted in philosophical hermeneutics. The chapter then sketches a number of sociological, cognitive, and psychological approaches that seek to support or qualify claims about literature’s ethical potential or position these within broader negotiations of value in culture. The concluding remarks address among others the value-laden nature of the discussed approaches and the need for interdisciplinary research in this area.


Sociological Cognitive Psychological Rhetorical Cultural 


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GroningenGroningenNetherlands
  2. 2.University of TurkuTurkuFinland

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