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3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility in:

Nina Liewald

Initiating a Dialogue Through 'the Global Community on your Bookshelf', page 69 - 106

Narrative Representations of 'Islamic Fundamentalism' in Selected Novels from the 1990s to the Present

1. Edition 2018, ISBN print: 978-3-8288-4072-0, ISBN online: 978-3-8288-6902-8, https://doi.org/10.5771/9783828869028-69

Series: Wissenschaftliche Beiträge aus dem Tectum Verlag: Anglistik, vol. 8

Tectum, Baden-Baden
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Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility As we have seen, the topic of the selected novels involves a plethora of ethical questions, which renders the long-held claim for a separation of aesthetics from ethics and political issues in literary analysis unsuitable for this study. A short introduction to ethical criticism will serve to provide an understanding of the interrelationship between ethics and aesthetics and the shifting attitudes of different movements in literary criticism towards a connection between literary form and ethical content. The status of ethics, morality and aesthetics and their supposed interrelation or disconnection always depended to a certain extent on particular anthropological assumptions. These assumptions are naturally susceptible to change due to political and historical circumstances and the orientation of philosophical currents, which have put a very different amount of trust in humanity’s ethical potential. Ethics For thousands of years, philosophers have been striving to find answers to the questions of ‘How should one live?’, ‘What is good and just?’ and ‘How do we decide what is good, just and worthwhile?’ Political thinkers have given various interpretations of the nature of man and his moral capacity. Aristotle saw man as animale sociale, who is meant to live in a community with others and has got (despite all vices and flaws) an innate capacity for ethical reflection and behaviour. A dissociation of morality from issues of legality did not exist in attic democracy (cf. Saage 2005: 41), where ethics, aesthetics and morality formed a unified trias. Nussbaum, furthermore, substantiates that in the fifth and early fourth centuries B.C. dramatic poetry also primarily addressed the question of the ‘good life’: The idea that art existed only for art’s sake, and that literature should be approached with a detached aesthetic attitude, pure of practical interest, was an idea unknown in the Greek world, at least until the Hellenistic age. Art was thought to be practical, aesthetic interest a practical interest – an interest in the good life and in communal self-understanding (Nussbaum 1992: 16). The arts were regarded as possessing an educational dimension. Through a piece of literature an author could communicate with an audience or a readership and convey certain ethical value judgments and moral codes. Consequently, tragedy, according to Aristotle, fulfilled the function of arousing “pity and fear, emotions which should allow the spectator simultaneously to identify with the protagonist’s fate on stage and to condemn the atrocity of the deed” (Hornung 1996: 209). 3) 3.1) 69 An anthropological antithesis to Aristotle’s image of humanity was, for instance, brought forth by Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). His conception of the world left little room for ethics and community. Homo homini lupus est, homo homini lepus est, bellum omnium contra omnes: Man is driven by greed and fear, which leads to a state of incessant warfare of each individual against their neighbour. This natural state can only be overcome by means of an all-encompassing power-principle, an almighty Leviathan, who enforces the necessary rules of coexistence. As an eyewitness of the English Civil War, Hobbes had no real trust in democracy and preferred security and stability to freedom. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), on the other hand, saw man in his state of nature as a solitary being who is neither good nor bad and only corrupted by sociation, which destroys freedom and peace, produces inequality and triggers amour propre – a selfishness that goes against all commiseration and community spirit (cf. Maier 2001: 65). To restrict these developments, Rousseau, who was deeply pessimistic about the development of modern individualist and capitalist society, envisioned in Du Contrat Social (1762) a political order based on radical popular sovereignty and a volonté générale which always aims at the corporate/common good and was to protect the freedom of the individual. Ironically, this political philosophy was abused later on for despotic aims by the Jacobean terror during the French Revolution. History has seen a long succession of different moral philosophies – of concepts that place trust in the ethical capacity of human beings as well as concepts that are deeply pessimistic and suspicious of this capacity, of concepts oriented towards the individual as well as communal concepts. As a unifying element, however, these ideas are all ‘products of their times’ in that they react to the experience of diverse societal upheavals and crises, which conjured up the necessity to respond to ethical dilemmas. Human beings have always been fascinated by virtues and vices, the pursuit of justice and equality, questions concerning the nature of man and their moral capacity as well as the best polity to regulate communal life. Religion, politics, science – our life is full of domains that are inextricably ethical and reach well into our private lives and dayto-day decisions. Furthermore, as mentioned above, questions of ethics always intersect with the age-old question of how to lead a ‘good’ life – an issue that seems to be omnipresent in popular culture today, from media-shows to self-help guides. If ‘good’ life stands for choices that are good for an individual, then there is no unambiguous guideline and no clear right or wrong but a thousand different options depending on individual circumstances and personalities. One can live a life that is a ‘good life’ for oneself, but might be called morally misguided by others, just as one can be morally virtuous at the detriment of one’s own happiness. A vital question in this respect is from which sources ethics can or must be derived. Harpham summarises this conceptual problem as follows: Where, exactly, does an ‘ethical’ obligation come from – from the face of the other, human nature, the consensual view of the good life, the natural telos of the species, our nature as rational beings, the subject’s deepest self-interest, prevailing community standards, our 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 70 duty as God’s creatures? Does it come from the inside or the outside? The history of ethical discourse consists of oscillations, vacillations, negotiations, and compromises between the given and the created, the nonnegotiable and the negotiable (Harpham 1992: 27-28, emphasis in original). Newall elucidates which great difference it makes whether ethics are derived from human or divine sources and must thus be negotiated or can (in the case of a belief in unchanging, religious truths) be retrieved. If people believe that ethics are created by some divine force, then the logical conclusion is to search for these already existing principles and obey to them; if ethics, on the other hand, is understood as manmade, then principles have to be discussed, agreed upon and can be changed and adapted according to practical considerations (Newall 2005: n.p.). As a last point the question of agency is of major importance: how we decide on (or negotiate) the importance of values and also who decides on values (a question prominently raised by postcolonial theorists in connection to a criticism of the colonial prerogative of interpretation and judgment). This entails the controversial issue of who is granted certain rights on the basis of ethical considerations and who might be excluded from these rights due to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, class or other factors, which have historically determined the application of ethics to specific groups. Having briefly outlined different parameters that are important when we talk about ethics, we must not forget the necessary dissociation of ethics from morality. Ethics or moral philosophy is naturally connected to the realm of morality but does not in and of itself denote moral judgments. Instead, it works on a meta-level and is employed to describe how we come to apply moral standards in the first place: In simple terms, morality is the right or wrong (or otherwise) of an action, a way of life or a decision, while ethics is the study of such standards as we use or propose to judge such things. Thus abortion may be moral or immoral according to the code we employ but ethics tells us why we call it so and how we made up our minds. As a result, ethics is sometimes called moral philosophy; we use it to criticise, defend, promote, justify and suggest moral concepts and to answer questions of morality […] (Newall 2005: n.p.). Similarly, ethical criticism of literature does not seek to pronounce verdicts on the morality of a work’s content, but tries to analyse how moral values are constructed through a text and its textual characteristics. Aesthetics Having briefly sketched the difference between ethics and morality, I will now focus on its relationship to the realm of aesthetics. As I am going to outline in the next subchapters, many literary movements and critics for several reasons voted for a strict separation of ethics and aesthetics. One of these critics is Richard Posner, who does not deny the potential ethical value of literature but assumes that the criteria for literary analysis should not be ethical but aesthetic. This opinion rests upon three main arguments: First, Posner doubts that the reading experience necessarily enhances the 3.2) 3.2) Aesthetics 71 readers’ moral capacity; second, he votes for aesthetic principles as the right criteria for evaluation and rejects the potential devaluation of a literary work just because of its supposedly morally offensive content; and third, he believes that our appreciation of literature should not depend on the moral opinions of its author (Posner 2005: 64).49 However, I strive to show in the next paragraphs how ethics and aesthetics can after all enter a fruitful synthesis for literary analysis. With reference to various theorists, Grabes outlines a complementary approach to explain the link between ethics and aesthetics, which promises to be very fruitful.50 Whereas a first group of theorists brings both terms closer to each other by redefining them in a broader sense (‘approximation via re-definition’), a second group solves the problem by subordinating aesthetics to ethics or vice versa (‘approximation via subordination’), and others point to analogies, linking ethics with aesthetics “through the idea of freedom” (Grabes 1996: 17) (‘approximation by analogy’). A fourth group is convinced of the incommensurability of the “various spheres of value in science, morality, and art under the aegis of modern differentiation” (Grabes 1996: 17-18), but is positive about a possible fruitful exchange between these separate spheres (‘approximation via communication’). Complementary approaches, by contrast, start from the premise that the rise of aesthetics in the period of modernity is the result of excess – an excess, namely, of ethical thinking, beginning with the rigorous demand of Enlightenment philosophy that all and everything be justified before the court of reason. This ‘Übertribunalisierung’ (over-tribunalization) has created a demand for relief that can only be met by the aesthetic, for taste needs no justification (Grabes 1996: 16). To my mind, this assumption made by complementary approaches highlights an important connection between societal developments and the human need for aesthetics (and thus also literature): All human beings have different needs and an emphasis on reason alone might not suffice to trigger ethical reflections. People at all times felt attracted to art, and at all times artists also tried to convey messages with their art that were important to them. Societal changes which bring about an excessive emphasis on one extreme not uncommonly provoke counter-movements – in aesthetic as well as cultural, social and political terms. Classicism was opposed by Romanticism. From the experience with Fascism, the Second World War and the Vietnam War emerged the anti-authoritarian, anarchistic 68 generation in Germany and other movements worldwide, embodying a reaction against political repression, old bureaucratic elites and military conflicts. Presently, corrupt (and mostly Westernised, secular) Northern African regimes are falling prey to an ‘Arabellion’, which among a magnitude of aims, different to each group and country, fights for less nepotism and more access of the people to the governance of their country and its economic wealth. Similar to the claim that the 49 For more information on the controversy between Posner and Nussbaum or Booth, see Tanner (2005). 50 The next paragraph essentially summarises Grabes’ remarks on different approaches concerning the relationship between ethics and aesthetics (1996: 13-19). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 72 emphasis on reason during the Enlightenment period may have caused a turn to the aesthetic, the discontinuation of universal values and categories offering orientation in our globalised world can be said to have prompted a yearning for ethical considerations and humanist or religious values. What we see nowadays in the media and on the internet are increasingly emotionalised (and sometimes also very one-sided) reactions to factual developments, by followers as well as adherents to essentialist believes. Islamic fundamentalist movements such as ISIS make use of specific aesthetic forms to stage their religious doctrine. Whereas Al-Qaeda, for instance, strongly focused on moral content in its video messages that often consisted of long religious and political sermons, ISIS employs different aesthetic strategies to attract attention. On the one hand, ISIS’ media specialists use an aesthetics of brutality for messages to its enemies, focusing on martial scenes of massacres and the destruction of cultural heritage.51 On the other hand, the movement knows how to address young people in order to gain new followers. The many multilingual videos and messages posted by its media specialists on Youtube, Twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp every day, represent an amalgamation of Arabic symbolism with a skilful employment of elements of Western pop culture. ISIS’ media specialists perfidiously mix rap and an aesthetic reminiscent of popular video-games with scenes radiating comradeship, self-esteem, masculinity and adventure in order to recruit new fighters.52 With this aesthetic strategy, particularly geared to the needs of young people in Western countries, they manage to attract and convert young people from all over the world, without ever discussing the religious basis of Islam in detail. Fundamentalist movements use an aesthetics of destruction and emotion that is clearly linked to their political and religious worldviews. So, maybe, we do need aesthetics and the subjective force of art to fight this propaganda with its own weapons and make people aware of the danger of essentialist ideologies and the importance of individual choice. Neither ethics or moral philosophy nor aesthetics alone will be enough to engage people’s interest in the long run. But a fruitful synthesis of ethics and aesthetics may facilitate an exchange of different views which has the potential to bridge divides, as literature does through its potential empathic appeal. As mentioned above, ethics and aesthetics not necessarily work towards the same goal. Some critics even propagate a compulsory split of art from ethics, which is thought to be necessary to unleash its full liberating potential. Bredella summarises the core of this position as follows: “Only if aesthetics stands outside of ethics is it possible to gain irresponsible freedom. The break with ethical immanence is the risk and the opportunity of the aesthetic experience. What is good aesthetically is not identical with what is good ethically” (Bredella 1996 (a): 31). This might be true for 51 Harmansa describes how the destruction of cultural heritage and its “high-tech mediatic representation accomplished many goals at once: from humiliating the local communities to broadcasting a radical ideology of religious fanaticism in order to recruit new transnational militants all the way to defying the common values attached to cultural heritage in the globalized world” (Harmansa 2015: 171). 52 For more information on ISIS and its media strategies, see Shane/Hubbard (2014). 3.2) Aesthetics 73 some works of fictional literature that mainly aim at the creation of suspense and entertainment and less at engaging the readers in ethical contemplations about the content. The literary corpus at hand is different, however. It is clear, from the novels’ historical and political embedding, the heated debates surrounding the topics they draw on and the manifold interviews the authors gave on the relationship of their works to real political events and religious controversies, that this kind of writing was not created only for entertainment purposes. Thus, we might enjoy the aesthetic, artful elements of language and style, but we cannot edit out the ethical dimension. What we encounter in these novels are references to real contemporary events with vast repercussions for large parts of the world, which are also anchored in people’s minds through worldwide media distribution. Some authors, such as Faulks and Hamid, skilfully conjure up exactly the emotionally loaded media images of events most readers will be able to remember. These images are evoked in order to exaggerate them (as in Faulks’ novel) or to display reactions to these pictures that might be radically different from the readers’ own experience (as Hamid does). A turn towards the ethical in literature and a “turn to the literary within ethics”53 As various critics have highlighted, the relationship between ethics and morals, as well as ethics and literature, is historically determined and constantly changing (Zimmermann 2006: 10). Similarly, the practice of ethical criticism has been embraced as well as rejected by different movements in literary theory. In 18th-century Germany, authors such as Johann Christoph Gottsched emphasized the ethical functions of literature. The 20th century saw a shift of the debate to Anglo-Saxon countries. Movements such as New Criticism (which defended a formalistic approach) rejected an inclusion of extra-textual moral standards for their literary analyses, while critics such as F.R. Leavis aimed at a combination of ethical and aesthetic questions (Antor 2013: 193). Ethics has long been discredited by postmodernist or Marxist theorists as being an ideology that is used to legitimise unjust political power-structures (cf. the overview provided by Zimmermann 2006: 13; Bredella 1996 (b): 101-104). However, the late 20th century was hallmarked by a perceived crisis of values in a world changed by multiculturalism, globalisation and a multitude of meanings, which induced a renegotiation of ethical criticism and increasingly prompted individuals to search for orientation and ways to define their own identity (Antor 2013: 193-194). Despite the currency of ethical approaches to literature at the beginning of the 21st century, the intellectual climate was, nevertheless, for long periods from the 19th until the late 20th century characterised by a distrust of ethical readings of art and a dissociation of the spheres of ethics and aesthetics. A short summary of major developments will provide an overview of different currents and turns in ethical criticism. 3.3) 53 Parker (1998: 14). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 74 Russian formalism,54 for instance, drew a line between literature and its cultural dimension, which led to the claim that “the opposition, implicit in formalism, between form and content does not allow for a conception of literature as a cultural as well as an aesthetic phenomenon” (Schleifer 1994: 698). Deconstructionism55, likewise, rejected hermeneutic approaches and viewed aesthetics and ethics as concepts that are opposed to each other: Since deconstruction, which claims to demonstrate that language is unreliable and cannot refer to the outside world, leads to a radical relativism and scepticism, it has often been accused of being ‘nihilistic.’ [...] Deconstructionists regard hermeneutics as naive and uncritical because it believes that language can refer to something else beyond language. [...] Deconstructionists accuse hermeneutics of being metaphysical because it presupposes a ‘transcendent signified,’ but hermeneutics is based on the insight that readings are provisional and limited and can never be final because the meaning of the text is the result of an interaction between the text and the reader. But it is true that according to hermeneutics, a limited understanding of the text is possible so that the text can speak to us and make us see the world in a different light. [...] A deconstructionist reading [on the other hand] is ethical when we realize that reading for meaning is impossible but continue reading (Bredella 1996 (a): 42-43). Deconstruction, thus, embodied a separation of ethics and aesthetics very different from my approach to the topic under discussion, even though one could argue to which extent even deconstruction can be said to have an ethical side.56 Whereas formalism, structuralism or deconstruction focused on the text, reader-oriented criticism from the 1970 s on viewed the construction of meaning from a different angle, but neither attempted a combination of style, content and context. In subjectivism the reader as the main generator of meaning gained centre stage. One of its main proponents, Stanley Fish, supposes that the reader, as part of an interpretive community, 54 Russian formalism was developed at the beginning of the 20th century and was characterised by a strong interest in linguistics and the identification of structural principles in language. This focus was accompanied by the disregard of socio-historical contexts and other factors outside the text and language itself (cf. Barsch 2013: 668-670). 55 Deconstructionism was initiated in the late 1960 s and early 1970 s by Jacques Derrida and later on associated with scholars such as J. Hillis Miller, Geoffrey Hartman or Paul de Man. As Kneale summarises, Derrida’s approach “has subsequently become synonymous with a particular method of textual analysis and philosophical argument involving the close reading of works of literature, philosophy, psychoanalysis, linguistics, and anthropology to reveal logical or rhetorical incompatibilities between the explicit and implicit planes of discourse in a text and to demonstrate by means of a range of critical techniques how these incompatibilities are disguised and assimilated by the text” (Kneale 1994: 185). 56 See Bredella’s outline of the argument (Bredella 1996:4 2-49), drawing on the works of Paul de Man, Hillis Miller or Simon Critchley, who defended the ethical motivation of deconstructionist theories due to their recognition of difference and their proclaimed anti-totalitarian stance. Hillis Miller, for instance, promotes that to accept the undecidability of a text is an ethical decision in itself. However, he proposes a strict segregation of different disciplines. He rejects “the attempt to transfer ethical themes directly from literature to life” and recommends that literary studies should concentrate on “the rhetoric of literature”, while the “rest should be left to departments of history, philosophy, religion, American studies, Victorian studies, programs in ‘modern thought’ and so on, where that rest belongs” (Hillis Miller 1989: 99). 3.3) A turn towards the ethical in literature and a “turn to the literary within ethics” 75 creates all meaning in a text. Meaning is thus not dependent on textual characteristics or authorial intentions but on the interpretive performance of the reader. However, ethics has – even at the height of postmodern ethical theory – not been neglected by all critics. Anglo-American moral realism, for instance, continued to address the potential truthfulness of moral judgments, countering the supposed relativism of post-modern ethical theory. Carroll describes moral realism as a “robust, flourishing movement, armed with powerful arguments against relativism, noncognitivism, prescriptivism and existentialism, whose existence is ignored by postmodern historiographers and whose claims are ignored by postmodern moralists” (Carroll 1996: 89).57 Furthermore, ethical questions were not regarded as completely irrelevant by the literary theory of the 1970 s and 1980 s, since the post-structuralist and political criticism (apart from Fredric Jameson’s Marxist approach) at that time can be regarded as “at the very least implicitly ethical” (Parker 1998: 3), as for example the debates surrounding multiculturalism exemplify (cf. Heinze 2006: 268). Thus, the abovementioned developments can only be regarded as tendencies, which also feature exceptions. The 1990 s saw however the emergence of new forms of ethical criticism which are central to this study. The 1990 s brought about a rejection of deconstructionist approaches and an increased interest in the interrelationship between ethics and aesthetics and their historical and cultural contexts. Whereas formalism strictly concentrated on the text as sign-system, and reader-oriented criticism (by Stanley Fish and others) focused on the role of the reader as creator of meaning, ethical criticism seeks to bring together form, content and reader. The skyrocketing interest in ethical criticism was partly triggered by the heated discussions surrounding the discovery of anti- Semitic essays by Paul de Man in 1987,58 which caused considerable perplexity and roused questions concerning the necessity of ethical evaluation in certain circumstances (cf. Heinze 2006: 268). The subheading “A turn towards the ethical in literature and a ‘turn to the literary within ethics’” also points to the fact that this increased interest in the ethical aspects of literature often did not come from literary critics but from moral and political philosophers (including Martha Nussbaum, Richard Rorty and Charles Taylor). The literary turn reached disciplines that had been relatively untouched by the topics of literary theory before. Even in anthropology, critics started to heed not only to the content of ethnographic reports but also to the literary and stylis- 57 The more radical forms of moral realism, however, differ from the present renewal of interest in ethical criticism in that they claim some moral judgments to be “objective” and “true transculturally” (Carroll 1996: 90) – a claim which would be contradicted or at least relativised by most theorists discussed in this study. 58 Paul de Man was one of the most distinguished proponents of poststructuralist theory in North America and had sympathised with National Socialist ideas when he was younger. While “critics of deconstruction pointed out that he had a personal reason to prove that texts cannot be read, and that ethical decisions cannot be made”, de Man’s friends claimed that because “he had been seduced to believe in anti-Semitism, he spent his later life in deconstructing texts so that we should no longer be seduced by them” (Bredella 1996 (b): 106). Questions of authorial intention, authority and accountability again moved to the centre of attention. For more information about the controversy see Burke (2008: 1-7). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 76 tic representation of other cultures and realised that the form of ethnographic depictions was not value-free but could also contain ideological biases, which had to be deconstructed (cf. Gottowik 1997: 20). What is more, Hadfield, Rainsford and Woods point to the concurrence of the ethical turn with political developments in the US and Britain that were characterised by a shift to the right, during Ronald Reagan’s and Margaret Thatcher’s terms of office (Hadfield/Rainsford/Woods 1999: 2). The resurgence of ethics in many disciplines was among these developments in domestic politics also fostered by world politics, catalysed by the influence of written and audiovisual media images: Certainly, the Gulf War has been a strong, recent stimulus to this debate, with many cultural theorists finding themselves impelled to comment on an event that was real, political, massively destructive and intensely violent, but which was also a cultural performance, mediated for the vast majority of us by a great deal of calculated manipulation of texts and images (Rainsford/Woods 1999: 7). These interrelations hint at the political dimension of literature and literary criticism, which not only seems to influence the content of literary works in defining points of artistic interest, but also promotes the formation of artistic intellectual counter-movements against a prevalent official ideology or policy. Referring to American literary history, Fluck argues in this context that literary post-war liberalism was partly a reaction against the propagandistic exploitation of literature for ideological purposes during the Second World War, which resulted in an anti-ideological stance, a stress on the role of the individual and a proclamation of an alleged autonomy of art against cultural orthodoxy and political instrumentalisation (Fluck 1996: 211-214). Liberalism then again made way for a cultural radicalism which questioned liberalism’s egalitarian ideals. It criticised “the actual economic, social, and cultural limits posed to individual choice [...] and the continuing cultural presence of racism, sexism, or homophobia, which stigmatize ‘other’ forms of identity [...]” (Fluck 1996: 214-215). The topic of ethical criticism might have faded into the background during certain decades that were dominated by movements with other primary critical concerns. Opinions have always been conflicting, but the topic never ceded to attract scholarly attention. The renewed interest in theoretical approaches to the interrelationships of ethics and aesthetics from the 1980 s on resulted in a skyrocketing number of monographs, anthologies and special journal issues on the topic of ethical criticism.59 The surge in theoretical approaches might partly be ascribed to an increasing lack of consensus about certain principles. However, this should, according to Bode, not be seen as “the symptom of a crisis in literary studies” or a “sign of decadence” but as a sign of a positive self-reflection and questioning of the fundamentals of literary criticism that sustainably enhanced its complexity (Bode 1996: 98). Ethical criticism was also regarded with scepticism which might originate in the lack of concreteness of many 59 Phelan (ed.) (1989); Gamm/Kimmerle (eds.) (1990); Toker (ed.) (1994); Hoffmann/Hornung (eds.) (1996) and (1996 (2)); Ahrens/ Volkmann (1996); Früchtl (1996); Adamson/ Freedman/ Parker (eds.) (1998); Rainsford/ Woods (1999); Mieth (ed.) (2000). 3.3) A turn towards the ethical in literature and a “turn to the literary within ethics” 77 theories that contented themselves with philosophical considerations on a more general level without offering possible applications to literary works. These developments, which also informed different currents of a post-classical narratology, were later on labelled with terms like ‘cultural turn’ and ‘ethical turn’. However, these classifications do not denote a homogenous movement, so that we may justifiably ask ourselves “whether any two people writing under this designation are actually referring to the same thing” (Toye 1999: 203). The term refers to several overlapping developments, which Korthals Altes summarises as follows: a pointed interest in narrativity and narrative literature from the side of moral philosophy [...]; an increased reflection, from within narratology itself, on the relation between ethics and the novel; and the corresponding growth of criticism focussing on ethical issues in narrative fiction, such as the encounter with otherness, self-fashioning, values, responsibility, and violence (Korthals Altes 2004: 142). Links between form and function were re-established on a conceptual level and analysed. Social, political and historical literary contexts mattered again. This was also a result of an increasing pluralisation of societal value judgments, the establishment of ethics commissions and the growing complexity of human rights issues and ethical controversies due to the problems caused by fast-developing globalisation. Ethical questions increasingly gained importance as religious beliefs, traditions and other ideologies lost their dominant power on interpretation and society became increasingly individualised (Lützeler 2011: 9). Apart from the economic and cultural dynamics of globalisation, Heinze also mentions political (the demise of the Eastern bloc), technological (the invention of the internet, virtual reality and biotechnology) and humanitarian factors (such as the emergence of HIV/AIDS) as driving forces, which posed new ethical questions and demanded a development and adaptation of ethical standards (Heinze 2006: 268-269). In this context, the ‘ethical turn’ was frequently viewed as a symptom of postmodernism and the fact that values were becoming increasingly relative and arbitrary. This renewed interest in the ethical value of literature was not only a phenomenon of the 1980 s and 90 s but continues to the present day as several new research projects and collections published in recent years have shown.60 Erll outlines this renewed interest in the semantic dimension of narratives as follows: From the point of view of cultural studies approaches, the literary text is not to be conceived as outside, above, or below, but rather as an integral part of its cultural context. Literary narrative can not only articulate collective experience, values, and concepts of identity, but also restructure the symbolic order of a given cultural formation. Narrative forms are ‘forms of expression’ in specific cultural contexts. Like all properties of culture, narrative forms are neither trans-historical nor trans-cultural entities, but mutable forms of human expression (Erll 2005: 91). As Schmidt-Haberkamp notes, the close connection between ethics and aesthetics that was prevalent during the 18th century is being revitalised today. However, this 60 See, for instance, Onega (2008), Lützeler/Kapczynski (eds.) (2011), Baumbach/Grabes/Nünning (eds.) (2009), George (ed.) (2005). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 78 happens with the vast difference that the Enlightenment trust in the rationality of the individual as a fundamental basis for tolerance, freedom and (self-)criticism seems to have vanished (Schmidt-Haberkamp 2000: 11).61 This scepticism is very palpable in the novels under discussion, as I am going to outline in the next chapters. Criticism of political circumstances or different forms of fundamentalism is always connected to the role of the individual and their search for identity and belonging. In order to achieve a society that is oriented towards common ethical values, the individual – according to this literary corpus – has to overcome personal flaws (like greed in the case of Faulks’ protagonist) as well as societal pressures (in the case of Khadra’s protagonist). It has to assert a conscious decision in favour of humanist values and the concomitant protection of human life and dignity against all odds. But the novels reflect doubts about the strength and ability of the individual to do so. Some (like Faulks’ character Hassan who contemplates carrying out a terrorist attack) are presented as finally acknowledging the force of ethical, humanist ideas. Others (like his character Veals – a ruthless and purely profit-oriented hedge fund manager) are so deluded and caught in their own absurd system of rationality that the above-mentioned self-criticism does not seem to be possible. Having briefly sketched the main arguments for a close connection of ethics and aesthetics, I will now take a look at the ways in which both concepts may be connected.62 Heinze outlines four main approaches to explain how the two categories may be related to each other. The first (proposed by critics such as Welsch, Antor, Düwell and Mieth) assumes that aesthetics possesses an inherently ethical quality. The second current stresses the instructive role of literature that may be exercised by confronting the reader with different worldviews and norms, which stimulates a reflection about their own norms (promoted by neo-Aristotelian and neo-pragmatic critics such as MacIntyre, Booth, Nussbaum and Rorty, as I will outline in detail in the following parts of this chapter). The third form of ethical criticism reverses the argument of the first in underlining the aesthetic quality of the ethical (an argument that can be found in the works of many different theorists). Finally, Heinze mentions as a fourth uniting element an increasing focus on the act of narration and the ethical relevance of specific stylistic criteria (elaborately discussed by Booth, Newton or Gibson). Here the topics of perspective/point of view, focalization, etc., which I am going to outline in the next chapter, come into play. The second and the fourth mode of connection between ethics and aesthetics will be of special interest for my analysis, since both mod- 61 Gamm notes that apart from a diminished trust in the rationality of the individual, perspectivism has from the 19th century onwards also cast doubt on the belief that different cultures and ‘the other’ can be described by means of an independent rationality: “Jede Kultur, jede Ethnie, jede Epoche hat ihren Standpunkt und ihre Perspektive, und jeder Einzelne erst recht, und möglicherweise sind sie alle auf ihre Weise gleichermaßen bedeutsam und legitim” (Gamm 2009: 209). “Every culture, every ethnicity and every epoch has its own point of view and its own perspective, and even more so every individual, and possibly all of them are equally important and legitimate in their own way” (my translation). 62 This paragraph is a short summary of the different categories introduced in Heinze (2006: 270-275). 3.3) A turn towards the ethical in literature and a “turn to the literary within ethics” 79 els underline the potential of literature to bridge divides and to enable a fruitful synthesis of form and function. Main tendencies in ethical criticism Opening the Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory for a first overview of a field in which literature has multiplied exponentially during the 1990 s, we can assess a division into three main tendencies in ethical criticism. There is the humanist tradition of ‘pragmatist and rhetorical ethics’ (influenced by Nussbaum, Booth, Parker and Phelan among others), counter-movements consisting of an ‘ethics of alterity’ (Levinas) and deconstructive approaches (Derrida, Blanchot, Lyotard, Paul de Man) and, as a third form, ‘political approaches’, among them feminist63 and post-colonial ethics (Bhabha, Spivak) (Korthals Altes 2004: 142). Valuable for this study are first and foremost humanist and political approaches. From the first field I will predominantly draw on theories by the American moral philosopher Martha Nussbaum. She highlights the role of novels to rouse emotions and prompt an empathic ability, which can promote the ethical education and development of readers. Furthermore, I will revert to specific aspects of the works by Booth and Phelan and their analysis of narratological devices where applicable. I strive to find out how the novels under discussion seize ethical terms and which stylistic means inherent in the text may influence or generate value judgements. Do the novels reflect a humanist vision or do they reject the possibility of a common humanist core? As we will see, Khadra, for instance, embraces a humanist vision, whereas Kureishi’s novel reflects a highly ambiguous stance on this topic. Faulks seems to advance that there is a common humanist core, which, however, is dependent on the individual and his strength to face reality and the challenges of our globalised age. Concerning political approaches to ethics I am mainly interested in the construction of identity and alterity, and, closely related, the challenges of hybridity and multiculturalism. As I delineate later in this chapter, the depiction of identity and identity conflicts is an important issue in this study. As a starting point I will refer to Stuart Hall’s concept of cross-cutting identities to determine potential factors that influence the formation of identity. These factors might reflect a liberal or a communal concept of the self, which is an important distinction concerning the question of agency and responsibility in the context of fundamentalist radicalisation. 3.4) 63 Important feminist philosophers include, for instance, Sandra Bartky, Elizabeth Spellman, Marilyn Friedman, Seyla Benhabib, Alison Jaggar, Linda Nicholson, Virginia Held, Susan Moller Okin or Sara Ruddick (cf. Baier 1998: 249). They all pursue different goals and share distinct political persuasions, but are often interested in interdisciplinary, broader approaches to literature, ethics and moral philosophy. 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 80 Man as “a story-telling animal”64 Coming back to literature as such and its connection to ethical concerns, I would initially like to elucidate potential answers to the question why literature matters in the first place – from a humanist, as well as a postcolonial perspective. Haines ascribes to critics such as Williams, MacIntyre, Diamond, Taylor, Nussbaum or Gaita a tendency to counteract the Kantian Enlightenment tradition in that they bring together apparently conflicting terms and insist on a reintegration of reason and emotion (Haines 1998: 31). And literature, in this respect, is as indispensable to ethics as moral philosophy with an even greater potential to emotionally and intellectually influence our commitments (Toker 1994: xviii). “[A]ll works of literature belong in a sense to the genre of the life story. To be human is to tell stories about ourselves and about other human beings”, Siebers (1992: 7) claims. He thus establishes a pivotal link between literature and our fundamental nature as human beings, accrediting literature with an inherently ethical quality. Düwell, furthermore, specifies that the relationship between literature and ethics is threefold: firstly, literature can thematise moral or immoral behaviour; secondly, it may trigger moral reflection in the reader, and thirdly, it might even deploy a manipulative, ideological potential by appealing to the readers’ emotions and rousing moral indignation (Düwell 2000: 11-12). Bredella’s reference to an ideological potential of literature in this case points to the fact that literature can gerrymander people to distract them from real-life social injustice and political abuse. However, literature can also fulfil a revolutionary function “not by supporting revolutionary movements but by questioning ‘the monopoly of established reality’” (Bredella 1996 (b): 103) and counteracting dominant discourses by making people aware of alternatives. Thereby, aesthetics is perceived to reflexively mirror concrete wordly experience. It expresses, distorts, concretises or caricatures this experience and enables us to look at it with a reflective distance – irrespective of the question of whether the realm of experience that art illustrates is perceived to reflect reality in an adequate manner or not (Düwell 2000: 17-18). Especially this creation of distance to our own experience and views on life grants us an insight into alternative perspectives, scopes of action and human needs which is unique to the aesthetic (Düwell 2000: 26-27) and may even influence the concepts we create of ourselves and others. Haker, for instance, explains that narrative is central for the constitution of our moral identity. He mentions that self-concepts are influenced by life-stories, which are in turn not only determined by the specific events, actions and experience that shape our lives but also by the form of stories we use to narrate about these things (Haker 2000: 49). “I am, what I narrate” (Günther 1990: 14), Günther concludes with recourse to Alasdair MacIntyre’s65 seminal study After Virtue (1981). In this context, 3.5) 64 MacIntyre (2011: 250) 65 Just as Martha Nussbaum, MacIntyre is an important representative of a humanist approach which is indebted to the Aristotelian tradition. Bruns summarizes his main ideas as follows: “What MacIntyre proposes is a moral theory based on concepts of character and virtue as opposed to a theory based on the idea of a disengaged moral agent who calculates what ought to be done (or, more often, not done) on the basis of universal, or universalizable, maxims. What is it to be a certain kind of person, and 3.5) Man as “a story-telling animal” 81 we understand an action through its narrativity and the complex relationship between a story and its references to intention, responsibility or identity: Eine Geschichte lässt sich nicht erzählen, ohne auf konkrete Ereignisse, besondere Umstände, Absichten, Zielsetzungen und Gefühle, historische Bedingungen der handelnden Personen mehr oder weniger ausführlich einzugehen. Das Selbst, das sich aus einer Erzählung versteht, bezieht sich nicht auf eine abstrakte Identität, sondern auf eine individuelle Biographie, die in eine konkrete Gemeinschaft eingebettet ist. Im Umkreis der Struktur der Erzählbarkeit tritt der Begriff des Selbst in Kontakt mit anderen, ethisch relevanten Grundbegriffen: den Begriffen der Handlung und des Handlungsverstehens, Intention, Motiv, Verantwortlichkeit, Rechenschaft und schließlich personale Identität (Günther 1990: 16).66 I agree with Günther in that I see the narratives under discussion as inextricably linked to their historical and political context and the construction of personal identity. Nevertheless, to establish a link between literature and philosophy can also be regarded as difficult, as Adamson notes, because philosophy aims at the description of concrete and goal-directed categories, whereas literature is often not that clean-cut but is interested in human experience which is always fluid and multifaceted (Adamson 1998: 87). However, I do not perceive this as a contradiction or hindrance but a positive potential and tension that can also be found with regards to other areas of this study. Whereas narratological approaches aim at defining and identifying specific narrative devices and clear analytical categories, the literary analysis of content and meaning as such is similarly subject to the reader’s subjectivity and individual interpretation. Nevertheless, this does not mean that both fields of study cannot form a fruitful synthesis towards a holistic reflection of literature. Similarly, analytical philosophy might be interested in lucid definitions and conclusions, but the content and questions with which it is concerned then again defy any classifications or objectifiable answers. I agree with Shusterman and Locatelli in that the “metaethical dimension” of a work of art might be very important, because the complexity of art can challenge us to interpret, to evaluate and to develop a sense of responsibility (Shusterman 2009: 64, Locatelli 2009: 73). As already indicated above with reference to three of the authors under discussion, an argument for the ethical potential of literature is that it “is a matter of imagiwhat constitutes the good, or excellence, of that kind – that is, when has a person fulfilled the ideal or goal or purpose (telos) of a certain way of life? The critical point of MacIntyre’s argument is that questions of this sort cannot be framed in universal terms; they are intelligible only against the background of a particular culture in which specific characters and virtues are socially embodied […]. There is no such thing as morality as such, only local and contingent forms of life” (Bruns 1994: 247). For a good detailed account of MacIntyre’s moral philosophy also see Murphy (ed.) 2003. 66 “A story cannot be told without going into more or less details concerning concrete events, special circumstances, intentions, aims and emotions, and historical conditions of an acting person. The self, which generates itself by the narrative, does not refer to an abstract identity, but to an individual biography, which is embedded in a concrete community. Within the structure of what can be narrated, the notion of the self enters into contact with other, ethically relevant fundamentals: the concepts of action and the understanding of action, intention, motive, responsibility, accountability and finally personal identity” (my translation). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 82 natively becoming a different I: a changed self, a different character, with a different gestalt, other values and beliefs, another sense of reality” (Adamson 1998: 90). Haker, therefore, described literature as an experimental form in dealing with reality (Haker 2000: 63). Literature may not grant us definite answers or analytical schemes but sometimes the journey can be the reward. Exploring literary texts means experiencing and getting involved with different ways of how to live, with a variety of different possibilities, hypotheses, questions and conditionalities (Adamson 1998: 103). The focus on ‘how to live’ and the questions different texts pose in this context is exactly what Martha Nussbaum and other proponents of a humanist approach are interested in. This enhanced capacity to call upon the readers’ imagination and emotion and to invite them to put themselves in someone else’s place, to see the world with different eyes and empathise with views and problems which are not necessarily their own, is to a special degree ascribed to the literary form of the novel. Much ethical criticism has been focusing on the narrative form of the novel with the common reason that the novel through its form and its thematic material represents precisely what ethics is about, namely: a reflection on human action and character; conflicting drives, desires, and choices evolving in time, offered for the reader’s appreciation or judgement from different perspectives (Korthals Altes 2004: 142). The experience of being able to relate to something and to get an insight into the mindset of characters from other cultures or creeds one maybe would not meet in real life may also alter someone’s rational judgment about a specific case in point and lead them to see political controversies or media debates from a different angle. Hamid, Khadra (and partly also Faulks) repeatedly conjure up media images and reports most readers are likely to know (such as 9/11, the capture of Saddam Hussein or in Faulks’ case exaggerated scenes from reality TV). However, these images are in this literary corpus perceived by predominantly non-Western characters who entertain views that might differ fundamentally from our own first reaction to these pictures. Thus, a fictional account of real historical and political events from a culturally or religiously different vantage point may lead us to a more nuanced evaluation and an understanding of the motives and needs of ‘the other’. Ethical criticism emanates from the assumption that this engagement with the needs and motives of ‘the other’ can have a transformative effect on readers. Concerning the narrative corpus at hand, the novels allow us to look at society and simultaneously take an introspective glance at our own emotions and prejudices, which might “help us see not only who we are but what we might become” (Gregory 2005: 61). This is why Richard Rorty even calls the novel a genre of democracy [...in that it] can help forge a democratic moral community of citizens attuned to suffering and more likely to see those different from themselves as ‘one of us.’ Because it is instrumental in fostering an ability to identify with the suffering of others, literature can be linked to the pursuit of justice, understood as a form of loyalty to other human beings (Voparil 2006: 61). 3.5) Man as “a story-telling animal” 83 To summarise shortly why especially the novel is considered to be of high ethical relevance for humanist literary theorists, I will quote a longer passage from Nussbaum’s essay “The literary imagination in public life”. She starts by establishing a link between the genre of the novel and rationality “in its insistence on the fundamental role, in its own construction, of a general notion of the human being” (Nussbaum 1998: 241). To Nussbaum, the novel simultaneously manages to acknowledge our common ground of human feelings and nature, while at the same time taking specific historical, cultural or social circumstances into account and highlighting the uniqueness of the individual: It forges a complex relationship with its reader in which, on the one hand, the reader is urged to care about concrete features of circumstance and history, and to see these as relevant for social choice; but is, on the other hand, urged always to recognize that human beings in different spheres do have common passions, hopes, and fears, the need to confront the mystery of death, the desire for learning, the deep bonds of the family. Its hypothetical reader is explicitly addressed as one whose sphere of life is different from that of the author – with different concrete choices and possibilities. And yet it is assumed that the reader can still identify with the characters and events of the novel as with possibilities for human life in general, and think how ‘such things’ can be instantiated in his or her own concrete life. This complex movement of imagination and reason, from the concrete to the general back to the concrete, through both sympathy and identification, is built into the genre […] (Nussbaum 1998: 242). With this aptitude to shine a light on the general as well as the personal sphere and engage the reader in a personal involvement with different points of view, the novel is attributed a mediatory function. Furthermore, it can intellectually bridge divides because it recognizes human needs that transcend boundaries of time, place, class, religion, and ethnicity, and it makes the focus of its moral deliberation the question of their adequate fulfillment. Its criticism of concrete political and social situations relies on a notion of what it is for a human being to flourish, and this notion itself, while extremely general and in need of further specification, is neither local nor sectarian (Nussbaum 1998: 242). This potential of literature in general and the novel in particular to remind individuals of the experience which is common to everyone, and which can function as a guideline for their behaviour, is similarly addressed by Raimond Gaita. What is more, he also underlines the subjectivity of truth and moral thought inspired by literary reflection and our dependence on extremely difficult and elusive concepts such as ‘sincerity’, ‘authenticity’ or ‘integrity’ (Gaita 1998: 284). This means that we might be moved by fictional characters and altered in our judgment on certain topics and ethical questions. But this must necessarily depend on our own subjective interpretation of, as well as involvement and identification with, a literary piece of art. The use of the term ‘authenticity’ in this context highlights the overall controversial quality of the parameters involved in the discussion of ethical criticism. Possible answers to the question of why literature matters from a postcolonial perspective border on the political. As various critics have outlined, questions of ethnic, racial or religious identity – whether individual or communal – are always connected to ethical questions (cf. Hadfield/Rainsford/Woods 1999: 6-7). Gymnich high- 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 84 lights the potential of literature to ‘rewrite’ or ‘write back’ (sensu Salman Rushdie) to dominant discourses. Literature can question and undermine hegemonic claims and make marginalised voices heard – a potential function that is common in but not confined to postcolonial literature (Gymnich 2006: 72-73 and 83). The present literary corpus does not focus on the relationship between colonisers and colonised but deals with very similar issues since it is closely connected to questions of power, the construction of identity and alterity and the political and ideological dimensions of literature. Like revisionist historical novels the works under discussion pick up political and religious issues and try to show a view of the topic that is different from the views predominantly promoted by Western mass media. They embody a criticism of topical issues from diverse perspectives that might represent counter-discourses to dominant representations. At the time of their publication the novels reacted to recent events that were probably still very present in the minds of readers. Having outlined briefly the general relevance of literature from humanist and postcolonial perspectives, I am now going to give a short insight into specific approaches that are useful for my analysis and the connections they establish between form and content. Towards a humanist approach: Martha Nussbaum’s Love’s Knowledge Humanist approaches to ethics “share their confidence in common sense (‘our’ sense of life), in language as a reliable vehicle of meanings, and in texts as the expression of an ethos that can be reconstructed” (Korthals Altes 2004: 142). Martha Nussbaum has published on a variety of diverse topics. What unites her works is the belief that philosophy needs to “address concrete human needs; it must be responsive to human perplexities, sufferings, joys; it must instruct us on how we as human beings ought to live if we are to live well” (Hall 2000: 175). Nussbaum repeatedly underlined the close relationship between ethics and aesthetics and believes that literature complements philosophy in many ways. Her interpretation of a text proceeds from the assumption of “an organic connection between its form and its content” and the idea that “[c]ertain thoughts and ideas, a certain sense of life, reach toward expression in writing that has a certain shape and form, that uses certain structures, certain terms” (Nussbaum 1992: 4). In her opinion, the specific stylistic choices of an author determine the possible range of interpretation and the guidance of their readers. She elaborates: A view of life is told. The telling itself – the selection of genre, formal structures, sentences, vocabulary, of the whole manner of addressing the reader’s sense of life – all of this expresses a sense of life and of value, a sense of what matters and what does not, of what learning and communicating are, of life’s relations and connections. Life is never simply presented by a text; it is always represented as something. This ‘as’ can, and must, be seen not only in the paraphrasable content, but also in the style, which itself expresses choices and selections, and sets up, in the reader, certain activities and transactions rather than others (Nussbaum 1992: 5). In this respect, she gives special prominence to the novel as a medium that is suitable to guide readers and engage their moral capacity. Nussbaum claims that the novel 3.6) 3.6) Towards a humanist approach: Martha Nussbaum’s Love’s Knowledge 85 is a morally controversial form, expressing in its very shape and style, in its modes of interaction with its readers, a normative sense of life. It tells its readers to notice this and not this, to be active in these and not these ways; it leads them into certain postures of the mind and heart and not others. […] But if literature is dangerous from the political economist’s viewpoint, this implies as well that it has the potential to make a distinctive contribution to our public life (Nussbaum 1998: 224). For her analytical endeavour, Nussbaum mixes humanist interpretative approaches with narratological categories in order to facilitate a link between form and function and to assay by which structural means ethical contents can be shaped: My question, then, will be not just about what the novel represents, what goes on inside it. I want to ask, as well, what sense of life its form itself embodies: not only how the characters feel and imagine, but what sort of feeling and imagining is enacted in the telling of the story itself, in the shape and texture of the sentences, the pattern of the narrative, the sense of life that animates the text as a whole (Nussbaum 1998: 225-226). Especially the novel by Khadra seems to prove Nussbaum’s claim that the representation of emotion is a core function in prompting the reader to relive situations he otherwise probably would not experience. Readers may thus see the world from a different perspective and even potentially scrutinise their own values. Among other scholars (cf. Yehoshua 2005: 19, Booth 2005: 33), Nussbaum stresses the potential of literature to create empathy which goes beyond a mere reflection of moral values by touching the soul of the readers and giving them the capacity to identify and feel with literary characters, be involved in conflicts and judge on the difficult choices, virtues and vices presented in the story. In that regard, I am not only interested in the question of which ‘postures of the mind and heart’ the novels encourage, but also how they achieve this structurally. I share Nussbaum’s view that a single focus on form or content alone does not do justice to the complexity of literature (Nussbaum 2005 (b): 151) – especially not for the topic under discussion. One of the reasons for me to consider Nussbaum’s theory is that she discusses concrete narratological categories, applies them to novels, and then tries to work out some of the possible structural implications for a content-based literary analysis. Despite the shortcomings of her approach I am touching upon later, Nussbaum’s attempt at ethical criticism goes beyond a pure declaration of intent, which distinguishes it from a lot of other works in this field. I agree with Parker, who welcomes Nussbaum’s idea of imaginative literature as ideal vehicle for certain views which tend to stress either the mutually antagonistic nature of important values, or the ethical importance of contingency or the passions, or the priority of particulars over generalities – all of which tend to resist systematic theoretical statement of the kind attempted in the available styles of conventional philosophy (Parker 1994: 35). In Love’s Knowledge Nussbaum outlines six major fields of interest and gives us a list of formal features and diagnostic questions covering content, structure and stylistics that we may apply to a text to help us understand its potential ethical dimension.67 The major points of interest for an analysis are according to this study voice and the 67 The following passages summarise Nussbaum (1992: 32-44) and are exclusively based on her ideas. 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 86 status of each voice, point of view, the parts of the reader’s personality a text involves (as she calls it) as well as the overall organisation of a text and the question if it gives pleasure. The category ‘voice’ here refers to the total set of overt narrators and characters present in a novel, their way and tone of narrating, their projected personality as well as their interrelationships with other characters and the reader. I will come back to this point by applying Gerard Genette’s model of narratological analysis, which enables a closer examination of narrators and focalizers. A very interesting issue Nussbaum raises in this section is the question: “Is there in each of the texts, taken as a whole, an implied consciousness distinct from that of each of the characters and speakers?” (Nussbaum 1992: 32). This point hints at the controversial debates surrounding the category of an ‘implied author’68 (sensu Wayne Booth), which I will come back to in the following paragraphs. In need of avoiding a field which is too vast and a category that is quite elusive and lacks specific criteria, I would like to, on the one hand, focus on features immanent in the text. On the other hand, I would like to draw on interviews I conducted with two of the major authors, because they made specific comments on the ‘spirit and consciousness’ embodied in their work. To identify possible incongruences between the ‘implied consciousness’ of the text and the thoughts and utterances of narrators and characters, I am going to consult Wolf Schmid’s model of textinterference. Schmid distinguishes between a ‘spatial’, ‘ideological’, ‘temporal’, ‘linguistic’ and ‘perceptual’ point of view, which is especially helpful in detecting a difference in ideological stance (Schmid 2010: 101-104). This is the case, for instance, in Faulks’ A Week in December, which features a rather covert narratorial voice, but also the employment of irony that cannot be attributed to any character within the plot. The meaning of these categories will be discussed in the next chapter on narratological categories. By the subheading ‘points of view’ Nussbaum does not mean the corresponding narrative category but refers to content-related issues. ‘Point of view’ here denotes the characters’ or narrators’ relationship to the plot – their (temporal or emotional) detachment from or involvement in the actions, potential changes of opinion and the central question if a text invites the reader to see the world through different eyes. If this is the case, it becomes central through whose eyes this is done. I endeavour to refer to this point by analysing the perspective structure of the novels under discussion. A strong effect on the direction of the reader towards empathising and feeling with a specific character or not can partly be attributed to the relationship between showing (mimesis) and telling (diegesis). The visibility of the narrator as an intermediary between the implied reader and the characters is an important factor for the degree of immediacy, the reality effect and the directness of consciousness-representation that shapes our reading experience. The third point, which Nussbaum calls ‘parts of the personality involved’, denotes the feelings a text might rouse in the reader, which may be different from the emo- 68 For an introduction to the topic and a good overview over controversies surrounding the concept of the ‘implied author’ see Kindt/Müller (2006). 3.6) Towards a humanist approach: Martha Nussbaum’s Love’s Knowledge 87 tions described in the plot. “What is active, or rendered active, in each case? Intellect alone? Or also emotions, imagination, perception, desire?”, Nussbaum (1992: 33) asks. As we will see, the texts often represent one emotion but potentially trigger different feelings in the reader. Whereas, for example, the tone of the descriptions in Yasmina Khadra’s novel very much corresponds to their emotional and often sad and shocking content, this is different in Faulks’ novel. A Week in December, on the contrary, partly presents outrageous contents in a very neutral and matter-of-fact tone, which has a quite different effect on the reader. Whereas some works aim at drawing the reader into the emotional world of a specific character, others rather distance readers from a closer emotional attachment, for instance by use of irony. In my narratological analyses I will come back to this point by examining the impact of irony/ satire, gaps/indeterminacy or value judgements and other stylistic elements on the direction of the readers’ sympathy and the evocation of emotions. Point four, the ‘overall shape and organization of the text’, is more difficult to include, in my opinion. Nussbaum here wants to know “what type and degree of control does the author present himself as having over the material?” (Nussbaum 1992: 33). Although I consider it important to analyse how a text is constructed, it remains vague in which way Nussbaum here involves the person of the author. I will take up the question of structure in locating climaxes and turning points and determining the degree of eventfulness of a story (as outlined by Schmid). Furthermore, perspectivisation plays a large role for the overall structure of the text, which becomes visible when we, for instance, compare Faulks’ novel (featuring multiple focalisers) with Hamid’s work (consisting of the dramatic monologue of one single narrator). Point five addresses the status of the voices displayed. Nussbaum’s central questions in this category are: What is shown to be the basis of the knowledge or belief? Are the truths claimed to hold for all time, or for some period of time? And over the entire universe? Or only the human world? Or just certain societies? [...] How far, and in what ways, does the text express perplexity or hesitation? (Nussbaum 1992: 33) On the one hand, this relates to issues of reliable or unreliable narration. This, however, does not play a large role in the selected narrative corpus. Nevertheless, these questions are central on the basis of content. It is of interest to me which values are attributed to different voices and which status they get. Is there talk of humanist, religious or culturally connoted values and are these values called into question by the narrative or not? Nussbaum’s last point focuses on the possible type of ‘pleasure’ (intellectual, entertaining, etc.) a reader might get from reading the text. She claims that by forming with the reader a relationship rich in pleasure, as well as in moral reflection, it [the novel] shows the reader a style of human relating in which deliberation is nourished by the exuberance of fancy, and moral attitudes are made more generous by the play of the imagination (Nussbaum 1998: 234). I agree with this point in that I believe that potentially more emotional text-forms like the novel may exert a stronger influence on the mindset of readers than more matter- 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 88 of-fact genres. However, I will exclude this last point from my considerations because of its subjectivity and the impossibility of linking this elusive concept to any concrete textual criteria. As important formal features, Nussbaum moreover lists ‘consistency’, ‘generality’, ‘precision’ and ‘explanations’. These terms address the presence or absence of contradictions in the plot, its determinacy or vagueness. Nussbaum is interested in how nuanced and from which vantage point the phenomena presented in the text are explained, and whether characters, contexts or places might represent more general principles. Here, again, questions of reliability or unreliability and indeterminacy or gaps in the plot move into focus. In addition, Nussbaum poses a central question (I also proposed to the authors I interviewed), namely: “What does the text in question seem to say, or show, about human life, about knowledge, about personality, about how to live?” (Nussbaum 1992: 35). Coming back to this central Aristotelian question, she confirms her belief in the inextricable link of literary and ethical content that most authors in this literary corpus embrace. Thereby, she heeds especially the possibility that “a text can make claims while its style makes rather different claims”, that “texts may, in their form and manner, in the desires they express and nourish, actively subvert their own official content, or call its livability into question” (Nussbaum 1992: 35). Finally, Nussbaum mentions structural questions concerning “the role of the hero or heroine, the nature of the reader’s identification, about the way in which the authorial consciousness is present in the text, about the novel’s temporal structure” (ebd.) as well as stylistic questions concerning metaphors, vocabulary or sentence structure. I will pay attention to all of these suggestions in my analysis. In the context of ‘fictions of migration’, language use (the use of strategies of abrogation or appropriation, the utilisation of slang or foreign vocabulary) is, without doubt, a central stylistic issue I am going to parse where applicable. Nussbaum has been criticised for some aspects of her theory. Eaglestone, for instance, animadverts her reading of texts, which he finds at times incorrect or overdetermining (Eaglestone 1999: 79). In addition, he critiques Nussbaum’s stress on the potential of literature to support specific communal identities. He is uncomfortable with her theory because, according to his interpretation, it represents an approach to language and literature that aims to create a strong notion of homogenous shared communal identity which overrides individual or cultural differences in the construction of a ‘we’. Bakhtin goes on to argue that this monoglossic understanding of language and the novel leads to enslavement and control, and that the novel and a free society are both based on shifting viewpoints expressed by different language uses. In this light, the ethical good of the construction of a ‘we’, of a communal identity, may be open to question (Eaglestone 1999: 80). Furthermore, the above-mentioned stress on the capacity of novels to give pleasure has been criticised because of the fact that Nussbaum attributes a moral dimension to this pleasure as such (Nussbaum 1998: 239). Critics argue that ‘delight’ is no objectifiable category and strongly depends on personal taste. Moreover, the validity of Martha Nussbaum’s approach to literature has often been doubted, because she main- 3.6) Towards a humanist approach: Martha Nussbaum’s Love’s Knowledge 89 ly refers to authors like Dickens, who wrote with a highly moralistic agenda, which arguably is different from most literary works today. Nevertheless, I believe that it is exactly this tension between individual and society, between the forces of individual consciousness and cultural/religious/societal norms which lies at the heart of the literary corpus under discussion. Equally Nussbaum’s focus on tragedy roused the question whether this genre was still relevant and suitable to serve as an example of everyday moral dilemmas, since it most often deals with extraordinary events and borderline situations (Früchtl 1996: 326). To these doubts she counters, however, that the collision of moral norms and the possibility to learn through harrowing experience, as core elements of tragedies, are also relevant for everyday moral decisions (Früchtl 1996: 329) – a claim I would agree with. Another point of criticism regarding Nussbaum’s approach is the insecurity about how she deals with the category of the author and his importance for a work. As a starting point, she distinguishes between different categories and underlines that she is only interested in the text itself: It is important to distinguish here, three figures: (1) the narrator or author-character (together with this character’s conception of the reader); (2) the authorial presence that animates the text taken as a whole (together with the corresponding implicit picture of what a sensitive and informed reader will experience); and (3) the whole life of the real-life author (and reader), much of which has no causal relation to the text and no relevance to the proper reading of the text. The first and the second pair are what will concern me here: that is, I will be concerned with intentions and thoughts that are realized in the text, and that may appropriately be seen in the text, not with other thoughts and feelings the reallife author and reader may find themselves having. [...] Thus nothing I say about the author here implies that critical statements made by the writer have any particular authority in the interpretation of the text. [...] I am interested, then, in all and only those thoughts, feelings, wishes, movements, and other processes that are actually there to be seen in the text. On the other hand, [...] the text, approached as the creation of human intentions, is some fraction or (9) element of a real human being – even if the writer manages to see what she sees only in her work (Nussbaum 1992: 9-10). As we can see, Nussbaum also distinguishes between author, implied author and narrator and focuses on the last two categories, which are inherent to the text. Her interpretation of the implied author as ‘authorial presence that animates the text’, however, reminds us that all these categorisations are the product of subjective interpretation. The inclusion of the interviews I conducted with some of the authors adds an additional dimension to the interpretation of the literary corpus and similarly underlines the subjectivity and polyvalence of possible meanings of a given text. The last sentence of the quote above already embodies some kind of qualification and an acknowledgement that a text is always made by human beings with their own special interests, intentions and passions. Nussbaum also includes in her interpretations prefaces written by the authors she analyses, which, at first sight, sounds contradictory to her stress on a purely text-centred strategy. She justifies this approach by claiming that she does not treat these sources as infallible, that these documents are “closely linked to the authorial consciousness of the novels” and that “an author need not be a bad judge of what has in fact been realized in his text” (Nussbaum 1992: 10). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 90 In this respect, I agree with the third claim. The information taken from my own interviews with the authors under discussion is not supposed to be THE key to understanding, but it contains one of many possible interpretations of the meaning conveyed through the content and structure of the texts themselves. Authors may express with the content and style they choose a personal ethos (shaped by their habits as well as by social commitments and general principles), which is then concretized by the reader. Recognising this ethos, we notice which normative questions are seen as relevant in a depicted situation, which individual circumstances we have to consider when applying moral principles, and how we might, at times, even have to modify norms to adjust them to these specific circumstances (Günther 1990: 26-27). In this process, author and reader share the same responsibility in constructing a work’s ethical core. This, however, means more than sharing or adopting the expressed views of fictional characters, but asks both, author and reader, to really observe and experience the – oftentimes contradictory – ethical questions which gain central importance in a given, described situation (Günther 1990: 28). By implication, Nussbaum believes in the necessity to adapt universal principles and to include the ‘particularity’ of every case by allowing the formation of more specific rules (Diamond 1998: 57). Despite all justifiable criticism, Nussbaum still developed an approach that is progressive and overcomes supposed dichotomies between literary writing and moral thinking. She counters stances which confuse the consideration of ethical dimensions to a text with making moral judgments. I agree with her regret about the long silence of literary theory concerning social and ethical questions. Nussbaum believes in the power of literary theory “to confront reigning models of political and economic rationality with the consciousness of ...[literature]” (Nussbaum 2005 (a): 105). To scrutinize dominant models of interpretation and offer other choices or views on a problem – often by subverting ubiquitous economic and political ideologies – is an intention uttered by all authors under discussion. Polyvalence and ambivalence are omnipresent in this literary corpus and unlock our potential to reconsider our own stances on different topics. How could we better learn to see a topic in a differentiated way than by reading novels which present us a wide range of different perspectives, historical, cultural or religious backgrounds as well as different issues and ways of looking at problems? These novels can serve as some kind of “moral laboratories” (Rosenstand 2005: 162), which invite us to think through various solutions and to contemplate the possible application of ethical principles. The more cases we are concerned with, the more we learn about the specificity of each case and may hesitate more to make generalisations, no matter if we are led to agree with the view of the protagonist and the tone of the novel, or not. This stress on individual consideration, however, also explains why it is not possible to construct a catalogue of stylistic elements in correspondence to certain effects, even though Nussbaum draws on narratological elements to build a bridge between form and function. My interpretations in the four analytical chapters show overlapping points of reference but also draw on different instruments, adjusted to the individual focus of each novel, aloof from any ‘form-to-function mapping’. 3.6) Towards a humanist approach: Martha Nussbaum’s Love’s Knowledge 91 Towards a political approach: Issues of identity, hybridity and multiculturalism A second field that is vital for my analysis is the realm of political approaches to ethics in literature. With the advent of post-colonial literary criticism (but also with the prevalence of feminist or Marxist approaches) literary texts came to be regarded as ideological constructions that could be employed and also instrumentalised by different political and social forces or centres of power (Coady/Miller 1998: 201). But despite recurrent thematisations of power structures, hierarchies and relationships of domination and submission, post-colonial criticism has also highlighted the role of individual identity with its cognate subjects surrounding the terms of alterity/‘otherness’69 and hybridity70. Migration, displacement and its consequences for individual and communal identities are issues which continue to be frequent subject matters of contemporary fictional writing and criticism.71 An important critic promoting a political approach to ethical criticism is Richard Rorty.72 Rorty’s contemplations on narrative and philosophy are not only interesting because he is a moral philosopher with great respect for fictional literature who rejects a reduction of narratives to their aesthetic value. He is also a highly political writer who showed an interest in topics related to religion and multiculturalism. His views emanate from the assumption that all human beings have a moral identity. Villains just have a different moral identity and thus follow different rules (Rorty 2006 (b): 96). He ascribes great importance to fictional literature as a medium which might help us “to enlarge ourselves by enlarging our sensitivity and our imaginations” (Rorty 2006 (d): 124). Rorty developed two conceptions of literature that refer to the role of novels in the construction of identity. First, he claims that “narratives provide a means of collective self-criticism [...which enables a community to become] more tolerant, more inclusionary, and more just” (Voparil 2006: 63). Secondly, Rorty assumes that novels “serve to solidify a common moral identity and inculcate a liberal morality” (Voparil 2006: 63). In my opinion, these claims are not ungrounded. Viewing the pride with which Shakespeare is seen as the embodiment of English heritage and a figurehead of English language and culture73 – a phenomenon which can similarly be found in all 3.7) 69 According to Harpham, this “‘otherness’ applies equally [...] to the obligations of the individual, the structure of ethical terms, the subject as constructed by ethics, and even to the position of ethical discourse with respect to other discourses” (Harpham 1992: 2). 70 For a very good introduction to different concepts surrounding the term of ‘hybridity’ such as ‘syncretism’, ‘mestizaje’, ‘transculturalism’, ‘créolité’ and ‘négritude’ see Kraidy (2005). 71 Cf. Kenneally/Richman/Zach (2014) as introduction to current trends in ethical and cultural literature and theory and Kim 2014 for a discussion of diaspora, transnationalism and transculturalism in postcolonial literature and theory. 72 Cf. Rorty (1995, 2003, 2006 (a), 2006 (b) and 2006 (c)). For interesting insights into Rorty’s political philosophy and his stances on humanism, language and literature see Steele (1993), Clarke (2000), Ryu (2001), Bernstein (2008), Dazhi/Yunhua (2008) and Leypoldt (2008). 73 Shakespeare even provided the theme and introductory quote for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, which was later on humorously commented by the media concerning the fact that Shakespeare’s works suggest that he did not like sports at all (cf. The Guardian 27.07.2012). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 92 text-based cultures – shows that literature is in a way seen as an expression of a specific nation or culture. It binds together people of a similar heritage. Likewise, in a post-colonial context there are various writers which have been hailed or criticised as ‘voices’ of specific ethnic minorities or religious creeds and have been partly judged and interpreted along these lines. Their novels have inspired debates about collective (minority) identities, about hybridity, multiculturalism, colonial conflicts and diaspora. Additional to the potential of narratives to promote the construction of communal identities, Rorty, similar to humanist critics, also underlined the instructive force of both philosophical and literary works and their contingent effect on personal change and self-development: As I see it, the value of the books studied in both literature and philosophy departments is that they serve the same function as archaic torsos of Apollo, paintings by Vermeer, and Grateful Dead concerts. They occasionally suggest to people that they must change their lives, and perhaps even suggest how they might do so. All things being equal, we should not teach books unless they have changed our lives, or the lives of people we know, or the lives of large numbers of people in the past, or unless we have some other reason to believe that studying them may change some of our students` lives (Rorty 1994: 578). In his seminal work Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity he describes solidarity as being created – not discovered. Solidarity develops by seeing the humiliation and pain of other human beings, which helps us become aware of their problems and feelings and may render it impossible for us to see them as alien, to exclude or marginalise them (Rorty 2008 [1989]: xvi). The novel can teach us about unfamiliar people as well as about ourselves and can effect moral change. The forces of individual as well as collective identities are important factors implicitly discussed by most novels in this literary corpus. As Bredella notes, it may be dangerous to reduce people to their collective identities, but we still have to admit that human beings always relate to their collective identities – whether they affirm or reject this identity (Bredella 2010: XXVI). Some authors criticise their own cultural/ religious background by literary means, others try to strengthen it in defence against outer influences, calling upon the common ground of a distinctive identity. In this context the recognition or misrecognition of a given community is vital for the selfdefinition of an individual. The possible tensions between individual and communal identity (which may be culturally, religiously or politically determined) play a large role in the works under discussion. According to the liberal, subjectivist concept of the self (promoted by Charles Taylor and others) “the self decides which culture it wants to live in and what groups it wants to be a member of ” (Bredella 2010: 109). Communitarians (like Alasdair MacIntyre), on the other hand, argue that we “do not possess an individual identity first and then enter into interactions with others and construe political institutions. Intersubjectivity is not something which is added to subjectivity; it is its presupposition” (Bredella 2010: 113). As we will see in the following analytical chapters, the novels by Faulks or Kureishi display a rather liberal concept of the self, since the protagonists try out and consciously choose different communal identities, whereas Khadra’s work, for instance, is emphatic about the strong 3.7) Towards a political approach: Issues of identity, hybridity and multiculturalism 93 pressures of a community and its self-given values on the individual and their decisions. The cultural theorist Stuart Hall is known for a “radical contextualism” (Grossberg 2007: 98), which fits in well with the interdisciplinary and broad approach of this study and shall serve as a further example of a political approach to ethics and literature. Hall has written much about the topics this thesis is concerned with: about the development of British society under Thatcherism and beyond, processes of cultural and political globalisation, the rise of global financial capitalism, new constructions of ethnicity and local as well as global identity in our age (cf. Hall 1994 (a)). He draws a very close connection between literature and identity by claiming that “identities are the names we give to the different ways we are positioned by, and position ourselves within, the narratives of the past” (Hall 1995 [1990]: 435). He reacts with his writings to the works of post-colonial theorists who see cultural identity as the major factor constituting the basis for all other points of orientation: [This] position defines ‘cultural identity’ in terms of one, shared culture, a sort of collective ‘one true self ’, hiding inside the many other, more superficial or artificially imposed ‘selves’, which people with a shared history and ancestry hold in common. Within the terms of this definition, our cultural identities reflect the common historical experiences and shared cultural codes which provide us, as ‘one people’, with stable, unchanging and continuous frames of reference and meaning, beneath the shifting divisions and vicissitudes of our actual history (Hall 1995 [1990]: 435). Hall expresses doubts about the possibility of a unified identity or experience that is based on race or culture. Instead, he proposes a concept of ‘cross-cutting identities’ and underlines the importance of many different parameters in the construction of individual identity. Surmounting the long-time accentuation of ethnicity or race, he claims that “[t]he end of the essential black subject also entails a recognition that the central issues of race always appear historically in articulation, in a formation, with other categories and divisions and are constantly crossed and recrossed by the categories of class, of gender and ethnicity” (Hall 1995 [1989]: 201)74. He highlights the discontinuities and fractions that are inherent to all group identities and underlines that cultural identity is no stable or unchangeable core but a fluid and manmade construct. Cultural identity is no ‘essence’ but a ‘positioning’ and therefore linked to a politics of identity (Hall 1994: 30). It is not inherent but constructed on the basis of difference towards an ambiguous ‘other’, which is included or excluded by the people in power of representation (cf. Hall 2004 (b): 171-172, Brah 2007: 81). Recurrently referring to Said’s Orientalism, Hall discusses in his work the relationship between discourse and power and the formerly dominant role of Europe or ‘the West’ to define 74 Hall here proposes a new concept of ethnicity which is not connected to exclusivist, aggressive forms of national identity and does not suppress difference but more positively refers to the fact that identity is always culturally, historically and politically constructed. He explains that “the term ethnicity acknowledges the place of history, language and culture in the construction of subjectivity and identity, as well as the fact that all discourse is placed, positioned, situated, and all knowledge is contextual” (Hall 1995 [1989]: 201). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 94 the rest of the world by stereotyping images reflecting difference and ambivalence (Hall 1994 (c): 137-179). In his essay “The Local and the Global: Globalization and Ethnicity”, Hall makes extended references to the concept of ‘Englishness’, which neglected differences of class, religion or gender striving for a homogenous representation of national identity75 – an endeavour that was increasingly undermined by the process of globalisation (Hall 1994 (a): 47). Increasing migration after the Second World War, as well as political, economic and social changes transformed traditional notions of ‘Englishness’, which is an important background for an analysis of the novels by Faulks and Kureishi. Migration generated increasing ethnic hybridity, which, according to Hall, promoted the emergence of ‘new ethnicities’ since migrants even to the second or third generation are influenced by a plethora of different cultural forces (Rustin 2007: 41). He maintains that assimilation will always coexist with differences that are lasting and believes that our age is characterised by a simultaneous increase in racism and multiculturalism (Hall/Maharaj 2001: 49). On the whole, identity formation as well as crises of identity and belonging play a large role in all novels under discussion and are mostly connected to a turn towards religious fundamentalist ideas. Whereas traditional theories in the context of postcolonial studies (such as the ideas promoted by Edward Said that have been outlined briefly in the previous chapter) had their focus on race and ethnicity as main denominators of individual and group experience, Hall sympathises with the anti-essentialist notion that modern identities are increasingly decentred, dislocated and fragmented (Hall 1994 (a): 180). A short summary of Hall’s main points will explain the importance of his work in this context. 76 He distinguishes three main theories of identity: the Enlightenment concept of a unified identity that was based on notions of reason and an essentialist core of the person; a sociological concept of identity in which the core of the subject was not seen as autonomous but created in interaction with the surrounding society and culture; and thirdly a postmodern concept of identity which is characterised by fragmentation and changing as well as conflicting identifications and loyalties (Hall 2000 [1996]: 597-598). Hall sketches the increasing diversification of modern societies and the process of globalisation as main catalysts for the development of the ‘postmodern subject’. Our age is characterised by the discontinuity of old traditions and long-held beliefs, a variety of different centres of power as well as antagonisms and societal schisms. The decreasing ability of the nation state to uphold myths of national unity and a homogenous national culture results in a lack of orientation and a vacuum that can be filled by the allegiance to other facets of identity formation. According to Hall, especially the four major former sources of collective social identities were beginning 75 See also Hall’s essay “The Spectacle of the ‘Other’” in which he describes how representation of ‘the other’ can be a means of exerting symbolic power and achieve an inclusion or exclusion of other people from a national or communal identity (Hall 2004 (a)). 76 The three following paragraphs summarise Hall’s argumentation in his article “The Question of Cultural Identity” (Hall 2000 [1996]: 595-634) and are entirely based on his ideas. 3.7) Towards a political approach: Issues of identity, hybridity and multiculturalism 95 to wane: race, class, axiomatic gender roles and the belief in the superiority of the Western world slowly lost their power (Hall 1994 (c): 69-70). This fragmentation or pluralisation of identity has also political consequences, since no single identity marker is able to override all other allegiances. Different factors of influence (such as ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender, ideology, religion etc.) increasingly compete with each other (Hall 2000 [1996]: 601 and 617). This led to the founding of new social movements and the development of ‘identity politics’. The division between the private and the public realm has been questioned and processes of identification have turned into political matters. In the late modern framework, man is conceived as individual and autonomous subject, and identity is not viewed as a closed system but an ongoing process of identification. According to modern psychoanalysis, we are constantly in search of our identities. We seek to connect the different parts of our fragmented selves to form a whole in order to construct for ourselves a coherent biography. This becomes, according to Hall (who refers to Foucault), increasingly difficult in the late modern age, which is characterized by fullblown collective institutions who control the individual, on the one hand, and the subject’s increasing individualisation and isolation, on the other hand. National cultures as ‘imagined communities’ (sensu Benedict Anderson) remain the main sources of cultural identity. However, it can, according to Hall, be doubted that national identity really manages to fabricate a unifying identity because all modern nations consist of disparate cultures with their own languages and traditions, different social classes and ethnic groups as well as sexual identities. National cultures are thus always subjected to inner tensions and rifts and only unified through the exercise of state power. All modern nations are culturally hybrid, and ‘race’ can equally be regarded not as a discursive category that has been disqualified by political abuse (Hall 2000 [1996]: 617). National allegiances are further undermined and weakened by global integration and a concomitant cultural homogenisation (in the form of consumerism, international media, etc.). Identity formation is influenced by tensions between the local and the global, but increasingly also by local or particularistic opposition against globalisation (Hall 2000 [1996]: 621-623, see also Hall 2001 (a): 21). Another argument against a general cultural homogenisation is the very unequal distribution of globalisation in many parts of the world and the fact that its homogenising effects are growing mainly in Western societies. In general, Hall holds the view that the pluralisation of new identities also brought about a stronger polarisation between these positions. In defence against the perceived threats of globalisation and an increasing cultural homogenisation, more and more people retreat to minority identities which come along in the form of religious orthodoxy, political separatism, cultural traditionalism or regionalism. In this context, Hall underlines the importance of people who belong to ‘cultures of hybridity’, because they are familiar with different cultural backgrounds, histories, languages and traditions, and can thus function as ‘translators’.77 77 See, for instance, Hall’s remarks on the necessity of translation between different worldviews and mind-sets due to the ‘cultural relativism’ that determines representation, the recurring lack of correla- 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 96 These are all issues which are essentially ethical and at the core of the present literary corpus. Hybridity, alterity and the multiplicity of influences that affect the protagonists’ decisions are palpable throughout all novels. Grabes notes the same shift towards alterity and multiplicity in the development of modern aesthetics as such and mentions that in postmodern aesthetics, the centre of gravity has shifted so much towards multiplicity and alterity that unity is no longer ‘given’ (or, as in the perspectivism of modernist art, at least suggested), but has to be established by the beholder, listener, or reader with all the arbitrariness and provisional validity of a momentary subjective synthesis (Grabes 1996: 25). In this respect, it is interesting to explore how different facets are evaluated. Is cultural hybridity presented as a positive potential or as a cause for identity conflicts and a resort to radical ideas? Is a resort to Islamic fundamentalism described as the result of an individual identity crisis or is it seen within a broader political and economic context as a fight against the abovementioned threats of globalisation? Which forces are specifically highlighted as contributing to a fragmentation of individual identity? Which tensions between local and global forces as well as communitarian and individual factors are seized on? In this context, the development of characters will be of major importance for my study. In the analytical chapters I am going to investigate the relevance of identity and alterity and revert to Hall’s ideas where applicable. The application of ethical criticism to the analytical chapters shall serve to answer the question how the texts evoke empathy for the plight of the individual and if they underline individual responsibility or communal pressures.78 The role of the author The ‘intentional fallacy’ and author vs. reader-oriented criticism Having outlined the points, I consider most important concerning structure and content, the role of the author is a third significant reference-point. As I have an interest in the political and religious statements made by the authors of the novels under discussion, I am first going to briefly introduce the controversial debates surrounding ‘authorial’ intention before elaborating on the biographical background of the writers. The importance of the author for a work of fiction has been debated for centuries. Schönert outlines how [s]ince the 18th century, there has been a culturally significant need to fall back on the author for interpretative processes and value judgments of an artistic work based on the creative act, authenticity, individuality, originality, unity of the work and its depths of mean- 3.8) 3.8.1) tions in other languages or cultural context as well as the constant change of meanings and concepts (Hall 2013: 45). 78 Scanlan claims that till today the ‘post-9/11 novel of terrorism’ focuses more on trauma and the pain of the survivors than on the terrorists and their motives and perspectives (Scanlan 2012: 142). As I am going to argue, this does not hold true for the works at hand and their engagement with Islamic fundamentalism that goes beyond jihadism and the events of 9/11. 3.8) The role of the author 97 ing. […] An author-related reception focuses on the intention, attributed to the author, to convey a particular understanding of his work. In this sense, the work can also be seen as an expression of the author’s personality (including his feelings, opinions, knowledge and values). In particular, differing conceptions of author and authorship determine, alongside the concerns of historiographic, classificatory and editorial practices, ascription of meaning to literary texts […] (Schönert 2009: 2-3). Criticising this view as “intentional fallacy”79 there have been numerous approaches insisting on the claim that all relevant information for any interpretation can be found in a work itself without consulting any other sources that might add some meaning to the information inherent to a text. Schönert subsumes under this label some of the currents already addressed in this chapter, such as structuralist, formalist or text-semiotic approaches, close reading and New Criticism (Schönert 2009: 7). Authorial ‘intention’ remains a highly controversial subject, not only since Barthes’ famous thesis of “The Death of the Author” (Barthes 1967). The role of the author for an analysis and interpretation of fiction is not only controversial but also highly dependent on historical circumstances. As Burke notes, the rejection of an authority embodied by an author might also have wider socio-political reasons: The death of the author might be said to fulfil much the same function in our day as did the the [sic.] death of God for late nineteenth-century thought. Both deaths attest to a departure of belief in authority, presence, intention, omniscience and creativity. For a culture which thinks itself to have come too late for the Gods or for their extermination, the figures of the author and the human subject are said to fill the theological void, to take up the role of ensuring meaning in the absence of metaphysical certainties. The author has thus become the object of a residual antitheology [...] (Burke 2008: 21). According to this hypothesis, the ‘death of the author’ proclaimed by Barthes can be called the result of a conglomerate of different historical, political and philosophical processes that emanated from an increased scepticism towards authorities and dominant discourses. In that regard, Biriotti subsumes six main influences that have contributed to a diminished role of the author for the interpretation of fiction for several decades. He holds responsible for this turn “a discrediting of the concept of intentionality”, “structuralism”, “the birth of the reader” or “a general move towards readerbased studies of texts”, “Deconstruction” and other text-centred approaches, “political concerns” aiming at canon formation and its embedded implications of “racism, sexism and imperialism”, as well as “developments in linguistics” that questioned the “notion of a single intending psyche” (Biriotti 1993: 2-5). In the next paragraphs I will briefly explain these major influences of firstly, an intentional fallacy, secondly, the basic assumptions of structuralism and deconstructivism and thirdly, the shift towards reader-centred approaches. Concerning the first and second point of interest, it can be stated that adherents to the movement of New Criticism between the 1940 s and 1970 s uttered consider- 79 Approaches which underline the need for a clear dissociation of author and narrator and reject the recurring scholarly interest in authorial intention include Wimsatt/Beardsley (2009: 84-101), Kayser (2009: 124-137) and Barthes (2009: 185-193). 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 98 able doubts concerning the so-called “intentional fallacy” (cf. Wimsatt/ Beardsley 1946: 468-488). They rejected biographical interpretations in favour of analyses which concentrated solely on the content and structure of the text itself. Roland Barthes followed a similar approach when in 1968 he wrote his seminal article titled ‘La mort de l’auteur’ (cf. Barthes 2000: 185-193). Biriotti points to the overall historical developments at the time Barthes wrote his article, when he describes how “[t]he traditional, humanist concept of a single, human source of all meaning was discarded amid the clamour of disturbances and manifestations against authority all over Europe” (Biriotti 1993: 1). As Hornung puts it, New Criticism, structuralism, deconstruction and poststructuralism brought forth “a radical shift in perspective from a man-centred to a text-centered universe” (Hornung 1996: 210). These text-centred approaches implicated a belief in the sign as sole generator of meaning while the role of the author was renounced. Ironically, it is especially deconstructionist critics such as Foucault, Barthes or Derrida who have themselves been the object of a large corpus of secondary literature, as the boundaries between creative writing and criticism increasingly blurred (Burke 2008: 170-171). The disregard for the role of the author during this period is in a way also surprising since the writer’s “responsibility to avoid language that is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., has never been articulated more insistently” (Biriotti 1993: 9). As a third factor working towards a diminished importance of the author, Biriotti mentions the rise of reader-response criticism. Reader-centred approaches start from the assumption that the reader is the sole generator of meaning. Everything depends on the subjective lens of the reader and their way of interpreting a given piece of work. Thus there are no lesser or more valid interpretations of texts, if we refuse to analyse textual characteristics or look at the intentions an author might have uttered. According to this approach, there would be no use for dialogue or an exchange of different opinions, because all opinions would have the same validity or justification. However, as McCann notes, “progress in all spheres of life occurs through the clash of conflicting opinions [...and] the development of knowledge is dialectical, it is a social process, and appeal to the text under discussion is part of that process” (McCann 1993: 75). McCann deplores the one-sidedness of reader-centred as well as text-centred approaches. He believes that a renunciation of contextual interpretations “produces not more and richer meanings [...] but no meaning at all” (McCann 1993: 74). Because of this reason, potential authorial functions have never been fully ignored and their denial was even contested by such eminent critics as Foucault, who raised the question “What is an author”? (Foucault 2000: 198-229).80 Furthermore, the ‘death of the author’ did not affect all movements. For instance, it barely influ- 80 While critics such as Terry Eagleton advocate that ‘the death of the author’ has often been overstated and Foucault just saw authorship “as a legal, political and historical category rather than as some transcendental source of meaning” (Eagleton 1993: 42), others claim that “[d]espite his questioning of the Death, however, it is Foucault’s evocation of an authorless world, rather than his insistence that we have not yet arrived at it, that dominates readings of the essay” (Biriotti 1993: 1). For a more elaborate discussion of Foucault’s theoretical achievements and shortcomings with respect to this article see Wilson (2004). 3.8) The role of the author 99 enced feminist critics, since this would have undermined their raison d’être (Miller 1993: 24). Feminist criticism as well as intercultural and postcolonial criticism stressed the centrality of the author’s gender, class or ethnicity for an adequate judgement of the conditions under which texts emerge and the perspective they reflect, and therewith gave the category of the author new social acceptance. The author ‘returned’, as Jannidis put it so memorably in 1999. Jannidis notes that an inclusion of the concept of the author has often been seen as problematic due to general considerations of cultural criticism and not due to the experience of literary criticism (cf. Jannidis et al. 2000: 9). Furthermore, criticism of an authorial intention derives from the well-established distinction between author and narrator, proposed by Käte Friedemann as early as 1910 and underlined by Wolfgang Kayser (cf. Kayser 2000: 127-137) in the 1950 s (Jannidis 2000: 18). This, however, did not inhibit the development of new models of authorial presence. In 1961 Wayne Booth developed the concept of the implied author in response to the widespread discussions concerning authorial intention: The concept of implied author refers to the author-image contained in a work and constituted by the stylistic, ideological, and aesthetic properties for which indexical signs can be found in the text. Thus, the implied author has an objective and a subjective side: it is grounded in the indexes of the text, but these indexes are perceived and evaluated differently by each individual reader (Schmid 2009: 161). The concept thus combines text-immanent and reader-oriented approaches in that it highlights the interplay of textual signifiers with individual interpretation. The ‘implied author’ was constructed as mediator between author and narrator, which more or less corresponds to the cumulative meaning of a text. Booth draws an analogy between the ‘implied author’ and a companion who offers us friendship and gifts that might give us pleasure and value for our own life or not. These gifts, or stories vary in their degree of intimacy, coherence, familiarity with or distance to our own world as well as in the responsibility or room for interpretation they grant us and the range and type of activities they suggest (Booth 2005: 91-96). Similar to our interaction with real people, our reactions to stories are subjective and vary from reader to reader. But according to Booth, this does not change the fact that the offer itself and all the content and structure determining the story can be considered as a conscious act. The concept has often been criticised as misleading or superfluous (cf. criticism by Genette 2000: 233-246). However, I believe the concept to be a useful starting point to account for phenomena such as narratorial irony, which is an important feature of many of the novels under discussion. There has to be some standard against which we interpret the seriousness or reliability of narratorial comments. And these choices of characters, world-views or perspective can definitely have an ideological side. I will therefore come back to the concept in the chapter on narratological methods. In general, I do not claim that any of the authors under discussion simply converted his political stance into a novel, making an ‘implied author’ express his views and beliefs. But I do believe that they did choose specific stylistic and aesthetic features for their works, which may guide readers (of course depending on their individual backgrounds and beliefs) to interpret the plot in specific ways. The ‘implied au- 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 100 thor’ is said to function as a bridge between author and narrator, who “chooses, consciously or unconsciously, what we read; we infer him as an ideal, literary, created version of the real man; he is the sum of his own choices” (Booth 1969: 74-75). Through these choices the author is somehow contained in a literary work. The main relevant features include the fabrication of a represented world; the invention of a story with situations, characters, and actions; the selection of a particular action logic with a more or less pronounced world-view; the deployment of a narrator and his or her perspective; the transformation of a story into a narrative with the aid of techniques such as flattening simultaneous events into a linear progression and rearranging the order of episodes; and finally, the presentation of the narrative in particular linguistic (or visual) forms (Schmid 2009: 161-162). Even though Booth’s theories seem partly outdated, I can nonetheless subscribe to his opinion that “inside views can build sympathy even for the most vicious character” and that “properly used, this effect can be of immeasurable value in forcing us to see the human worth of a character whose actions, objectively considered, we would deplore” (Booth 1969: 378). And this possible effect is of great significance for our topic.81 As outlined by Nussbaum, the direction of sympathy is, moreover, linked to concepts such as ‘poetic justice’, which I have briefly outlined in this chapter. In my opinion, reader- and author-based models should not compete and exclude each other but can be combined in a fruitful way to shed light on a text from different angles. There are textual characteristics suggesting specific clues, but there is also the reader’s freedom of interpretation. As Schmid rightfully highlights, it must be remembered that, like the readings of different recipients, the various interpretations of a single reader are each associated with a different implied author. Depending on the function a work is believed to have had according to a given reading, the implied author will be reconstructed as having predominantly aesthetic, practical, or ideological intentions (Schmid 2009: 162). To my mind, the implied authors of the selected novels follow predominantly ideological intentions. Even though some works might reflect opinions on specific topics that the real-life author does not hold, this does not seem to be the case in this respect. May it be due to the fact that Islamic fundamentalism is such a sensitive issue that does not encourage experimental treatment, or because some authors (like Hanif Kureishi) are also politically active and have no interest in expressing through their works an ideological stance different from their personal position: The tenor of most novels corresponds to the public statements on the central topic made by the authors themselves. In this context, I also address their personal background but without recourse to psychoanalytical theories. I only consult official political statements uttered 81 It is important in this respect, though, that Booth modified his views proposed in A Rhetoric of Fiction in favour of a more open and differentiated approach that does not emanate from a direct correlation between narrative techniques and ethical effects, anymore (Booth 1989: 57-78). For a clarification of Booth’s concept of ‘rhetoric’ see Chatman (1989: 40-56). In this article Chatman discusses the distinction between the ideological and aesthetic functions of narrative techniques and makes a valuable contribution to specify and develop Booth’s categories. 3.8) The role of the author 101 by the authors themselves and do not strive to overinterpret the role of their biography. The background is primarily relevant where an author underlined the importance of specific historical or personal events for the creation of his or her work. The authors’ background: Khadra, Hamid, Kureishi, Faulks The selected novelists come from different backgrounds, which had a greater or lesser influence on their various works. Yasmina Khadra (or Mohammed Moulessehoul) is a former Algerian army officer who had to resort to his female nom de plume in the early 1990 s due to increasing censorship. At first focusing on the political and social conditions in Algeria, he wrote a series of crime novels before publishing a trilogy set in Afghanistan, Israel and Iraq, of which The Sirens of Baghdad is the last part. The single novels are not interrelated by content but all deal with regional circumstances that promote a thriving of Islamic fundamentalism. All three works set out to illuminate the reasons why ordinary people may resort to violence and radical religious ideologies. Without falling prey to intentional fallacy, I believe that it is important to acknowledge that the author was born into a Bedouin family and entered a cadet school at the age of nine. Since then he served the Algerian army, also during the civil war from December 1991 till February 2002, in which the government fought against different Islamist rebel movements like the Armed Islamic Group. He was first praised by Western academia for his works and later on attacked and shunned for his military past. After the revelation of his identity in 2000, Khadra has frequently been giving interviews. In these interviews, he criticises violent currents in Islam as well as Western politics and Western interpretations of Islamic fundamentalism. The author is himself a Muslim but underlines, above everything, his position as a humanist, which clearly shines through his writing. He has recurrently been stressing that he wants to give an insight into different facets of the phenomenon from a point of view Western readers might be unaccustomed to. He endeavours to accentuate shared human values and to rouse empathy for the plight of other people and their motives for violence. Thus, Khadra’s background has to be considered for an analysis of The Sirens of Baghdad. Without interpreting the novel from a biographical viewpoint, I will still refer to the author’s opinion on political and religious issues where applicable. What is more, the disclosure of Yasmina Khadra’s real name and identity in 2000 and the ensuing resentful debates surrounding his personality and military past, which resulted in the withdrawal of a writer’s scholarship and a literary prize, exemplify the immense influence of biographical facts on the reader-response to a given work. The literary achievement remained the same after Khadra’s revelation. However, the reading, and sometimes even appreciation and academic valuation of his work changed in many circles. We all – consciously or not – draw conclusions from an author’s gender and their ethnic, social, political or religious background and project these assumptions on the text itself with respect to choices involving language, 3.8.2) 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 102 style and content.82 Strictly speaking, the author in this way even plays a role in reader-oriented analytical models. Hanif Kureishi’s career similarly indicates the crucial role of a writer’s name for the reception of his works. Once established, an author also sells many books with his name – especially if he is regarded as ‘the voice’ of a specific community. In this respect, Kureishi has long been hailed as a representative of Asian immigrants in Britain, who is able to give readers an insight into migrant identity (cf. Buchanan 2007: 12-13). This potential was ascribed to him even though he never claimed to represent Pakistani people. Neither did he experience migration, nor suffer from language barriers, economic deprivation or other common problems newly-arrived migrants from different cultural backgrounds might face when coming to Great Britain. However, the experience of racism does not seem to be unknown to him. Hanif Kureishi (born 1954) grew up in London as the son of an English mother and a Pakistani father. In his essay “The Rainbow Sign” he explains how he experienced a wave of racism, especially directed against Pakistani immigrants, during his youth. He describes how he was disappointed by the hatemongering of Enoch Powell and other politicians, by the daily assaults on immigrants on the streets, the prejudices, distrust and insults he had to face because of his skin colour and the anger he had to swallow. Kureishi sketches how he himself had to undergo some sort of identity crisis, not knowing where he belonged. Thus, his writing has to be understood in the context of his experience in Great Britain under Thatcher, which was characterised by a climate of “anti-unionism, individualism, nationalism, as well as the increasing tendency to associate national identity with whiteness” (Hammond 2007: 224). Having written pornography during the 1970 s, he published various plays, short stories and novels during the 1980 s and 1990 s. The Black Album and the story “My Son the Fanatic” are the only works dealing with the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. Kureishi very much focuses on questions of identity, nationality, race, class, sexuality and issues of belonging and hybridity in its various different facets. Just as Faulks’ novel A Week in December was called a ‘state of the nation novel’ by many critics, Kureishi also named The Black Album “a ‘state of Britain’ narrative” (Kureishi 2011: 112). Interestingly, he holds race and religion to be the main fields of conflict in present-day British society, whereas Sebastian Faulks, for instance, identifies economic and class divisions as major roots of social unrest. In “The Word and the Bomb” (originally published in 2005) Kureishi outlines: During my childhood and youth, differences in British society were always based around class and the conflicts they gave rise to. [...] Now people are not even divided over politics, as there is only one party, and the opposition is fragmented, disorganised and without pas- 82 Diment highlights that making a connection between the real-life author and his work is a positive process, because a strict separation between author and implied author or morality and art has often in history served totalitarian ideologies. Single authors were thus able to disseminate their radical and often morally reprehensible ideas and be excused by the public under the guise of artistic freedom (Diment 1994: 143-167). 3.8) The role of the author 103 sion or direction. The real differences in Britain today are not political, or even based on class, but are arranged around race and religion, with their history of exploitation, humiliation and political helplessness (Kureishi 2011: 99). The author narrates how he became fully aware of the force of Islamic fundamentalist ideas during his stay with his father’s family in Pakistan in 1982, where he saw an advancing Islamisation taking place, and after the Rushdie affair in 1989. He wanted to understand the appeal of religious fundamentalism to young people in Pakistan as well as back home in Britain and looked at the issue with increasing perplexity: Forgetting how zealous we had once been about our own description of equality – socialism – we could only be shocked by their commitment and solidarity, and by their hatred of injustice, as well as their determination to bring about social change. We had not seen religious revolutionaries for a long time. [...] For us, religious commitment, particularly if it was political too, entailed not emancipation but a rejection of the Enlightenment and of modernity. How could we begin to deal with it? You respect people who are different, but how do you live with people who are so different that – among other things – they lock up their wives? (Kureishi 2011: 100-101). Being a Muslim but not very religious, Kureishi has frequently been criticised by Muslim and especially Pakistani communities for his blunt and provocative depiction of sexual excesses and his criticism of religious dogma. Nevertheless, his works are carefully researched. The writer has got contact with Muslim communities and did a lot of research specifically on Muslims in Britain. In this context, he also spoke with young Muslim people who had been drawn to fundamentalist religious beliefs and were involved in the planning of terrorist attacks. In that regard, he realized which central role questions of identity, belonging and moral orientation played for the young radicals he spoke with. In Dreaming and Scheming Kureishi concludes about this issue: Fundamentalism provides security. For the fundamentalist, as for all reactionaries, everything has been decided. Truth has been agreed and nothing must change. For serene liberals on the other hand, the consolations of knowing seem less satisfying than the pleasures of puzzlement, and of wanting to discover for oneself. But the feeling that one cannot know everything, that there will always be maddening and live questions about who one is and how it is possible to make a life with other people who don’t accept one, can be devastating. [...] Enlightenment values – rationalism, tolerance, scepticism – don’t get you through a dreadful night; they don’t provide spiritual comfort or community or solidarity. [...] Muslim fundamentalism has always seemed to me to be profoundly wrong, unnecessarily restrictive and frequently cruel. But there are reasons for its revival that are comprehensible (Kureishi 2002: 220-221). Apart from the many political statements Kureishi has given throughout his career, this is also a very personal evaluation of ‘home-grown British’ Islamic fundamentalism and its potential roots and driving forces. The author has at all times been very straightforward in his political commentary, which is clearly reflected in The Black Album. Mohsin Hamid was born in Lahore in 1971 and spent roughly half of his life in Pakistan. He attended school in the United States from three to nine, while his father was a university professor at Stanford, before going back to Lahore. At 18 he returned 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 104 to the US and studied at Princeton with writers such as Toni Morrison and Joyce Carol Oates. After graduating from Princeton, Hamid attended Harvard Law School and worked for several years for McKinsey and Company in New York. In 2001 he moved to London and became a dual citizen of Britain in 2006. For some years now, he’s been living with his wife and daughter between London, New York, Lahore and other cities. While his first novel Moth Smoke (2000) is set in Pakistan, his second novel The Reluctant Fundamentalist focuses on the position of a Muslim, Pakistani immigrant in the United States and his adaptation to and final rejection of the Western capitalist economy. Often asked about the many parallels between his own life and the life of the protagonist, Hamid answered that he did not write his own story. Nevertheless, he admits that he does not do a lot of research but that he draws on his experience and only writes about things he also believes in. Hamid is a Muslim but emphasises that religion is a very private matter for him: When I came back from college with all these radical ideas, and I was talking to one of my aunts about religion she said to me: ‘Look, I don’t want to answer your questions.’ I asked: ‘Why don’t you answer my questions? Don’t you have enough faith to stand my questioning?’ And she said: ‘Look: It’s not about that we have faith or don’t have faith. It’s that it’s personal. It’s between me and my God!’ And I think that is a really good answer. As far as my own sort of spirituality is concerned, I avoid speaking about it, because I think it is something personal (interview with Mohsin Hamid 16.08.2012). He underlined in conversation with me that he would call himself a humanist, but that this does not automatically imply irreligiousness. Furthermore, he claimed to be a ‘liberal Pakistani’. Being asked what this means with respect to his value system and attitude to life he explained: When you ask generally what I mean when I say that I am a ‘liberal Pakistani’ (which is also a very clumsy term), I can say, from a political outlook that I certainly believe in equal rights for women, homosexuals, different races, ethnicities, religious groups. I believe in the protection of minorities and in freedom of expression. I support the legalization of drugs. I support a world where nobody ever had to carry a passport. I am a believer in any kind of equality between human beings that should not be denied on the basis of citizenship, or sexuality, or religion, or expression, or race (interview with Mohsin Hamid 16.08.2012). These comments already set a useful framework for an interpretation of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which reflects this ethos. Sebastian Faulks (born in 1953 in Donnington) studied English at Cambridge and is also a journalist. Like Kureishi he has been appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). He wrote various historical novels – many of them set in France and dealing with the First World War. A Week in December is his only work that thematises the issues of Islamist beliefs and the downturns of the Western capitalist economy. Faulks is not too convinced of the role of the author in fiction. He is a diligent researcher who claims that all of his characters and stories are entirely fictitious. He concedes that necessarily novels have a strong connection to reality through “common human experiences of the phenomenal world” (Faulks 2011: 4), but warns against the “runaway truck of biographical reductionism” (Faulks 2011: 6). Faulks sees literature as a creative work of art, which is the gift of the writer. On the one 3.8) The role of the author 105 hand, he acknowledges that the increase in biographical emphasis during the last twenty years “re-humanised the way that people looked at books: it made novels appear once again to be about people and experience, not structural linguistics” (Faulks 2011: 2). On the other hand, he criticises the ubiquity of gossip concerning the novelists’ background and the tendential connection between an autobiographical dimension of a work and its success, or popularity. To my mind, this is an interesting aspect. Oftentimes, a literary work has been severely criticised after its alleged ‘authenticity’ had been dismantled (e.g. in 1992 when the indigenous ancestry of the Australian Aboriginal author Mudrooroo – or Colin Johnson – was publicly discussed and questioned). A further remarkable aspect is his statement about his motivation to write about Islamic fundamentalism. Faulks observes: Of course, 9/11 and the bombings in London roused my interest. Furthermore, I know some Muslim people. I wanted to better understand this. If you are a responsible grownup human being living in the Western world in this decade, you have a kind of responsibility to try to understand what’s going on in the world. [...] However, my interest isn’t really in Islam. My interest was in finding something that would fit in with my novel. To me, I’m an artist first. If you think of a painter and part of his painting is the portrait of a dog you can state that sure, he’s interested in dogs and sure he’s trying to get the dog right, but he’s really interested in what the dog can contribute to the painting. I had quite a religious upbringing myself. I’m not a very religious person, but I know a lot about Christianity and I was just interested to find out what this very popular world-wide religion of Islam offered to all the millions of people who subscribed to it (interview with Sebastian Faulks 14.10.2012). Accordingly, Faulks starts from a very different vantage point than Khadra, whose life-story has been inextricably enmeshed in issues of religion, politics and a military fight against Islamic fundamentalism. 3) Ethical criticism and authorial responsibility 106

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Abstract

Nina Liewald analyses literary representations of so-called 'Islamic fundamentalism' by contemporary authors whose cultural background and approach to the subject matter differs substantially: Hanif Kureishi, Sebastian Faulks, Mohsin Hamid and Yasmina Khadra. The author focuses on the narrative depiction of this complex phenomenon and its economic, religious and sociopolitical framework in selected contemporary novels. The interdisciplinary study is offering contextualised readings and combining narratology, literary and cultural studies with approaches from political science. It explores the potential functions of literature in a highly politicised context and specifically the potential of literature to shed light on radicalisation processes and to promote public discourse and intercultural understanding.