Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

Spring 5-24-1962

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to investigate the relationship of morality to literary criticism in order to determine the relevance of morality as an objective critical concept. Some, critics, such as the formalists, insist that morality is irrelevant to literary criticism because it is a subjective concept. Others, such as Leo Tolstoy and Yvor Winters, insist that the concept of morality provides the final critical factor in the judgment of a literary work. As a result of the different points of view, the concept of morality in literary criticism is confusing. Each of the above points of view can be identified as it appears in literary criticism, and each can be rejected from objective literary criticism as erroneous. There is, however, one objective sense in which morality can be used as an objective critical concept: that is, morality as it appears in relation to dramatic conflict. If a writer chooses to treat an incident concerning characters and their actions in regard to a choice between good and evil, a moral incident, his choice will impose restrictions on his treatment of the incident. If he does not conscientiously follow the imposed restrictions, serious artistic errors will result. An examination of the erroneous points of view to discover their faults, and an analysis of literary works which treat a moral incident comprehensively, indicate that the concept of morality is not only relevant to objective literary criticism but that it is a valuable and important concept.

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