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Alawi Canlas

on 9 December 2013

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1. Judge the value of the literature on its moral lesson or ethical teaching
A. Literature that that is ethically sound and encourages virtue is praised B. Literature that misguides and/or corrupts is condemned
2. Works that are moral (or literature that attempts to teach and instruct as well as entertain) are often seen in contemporary criticism as didactic.

3. Plato argues that literature (and art) is capable of corrupting or influencing people to act or behave in various ways. The underlying principle then is whether or not the text can be seen as
A) moral, and B) practical or useful.
The larger function of literature is to teach morality and to probe philosophical issues
Jean Paul Satre and Albert Camus – existentialism
Pope’s Essay on Man – meaning and role of reason in the 18th century thought

Critics working from a moral bent are not unaware of form, figurative language and other purely aesthetic considerations, but they consider them to be secondary
The most important thing is the moral philosophy teaching
In the larger sense, all great literature teaches.
Ascertaining and stating WHAT is taught

as old as classical Greek and Roman critics
Plato – emphasized moralism and utilitarianism
Horace – stressed that literature should be delightful and instructive
Matthew Arnold – a great literary work must possess “high seriousness”

Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter – a study of the effects of secret sin on a human soul, i.e. unconfessed before both God and man
Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening – suggests that duty and responsibility take precedence over beauty and pleasure
Literary critics who use the school of Moral Criticism as their "lens" from which to view and examine the worthiness or quality of literature do the following:
4. Post Modern Moral Criticism asks how the work in question affects the reader. This is technically what is called Neo-Humanist--an American philosophy that evaluates morality.

By the 1940's (particularly after WWII) Neo-humanism died away, leaving Christian Humanism in its wake. Christian Humanism seeks the same goal as Neo-humanism, but uses Christian belief and teachings of morality as its basis.

How to do it?
Questions to consider when approaching a text with Moral Criticism (or Neo-Humanism or Christian Humanism)

1. Maturity, sincerity, honesty, sensitivity, and/or courage become important criteria in determining the worth of literature and art. Is the author and his/her treatment of subject (both character and theme) mature, sincere, honest, sensitive, or courageous? How so, and how does knowing this help us approach the text in a meaningful way?

2. Does the text seek to corrupt or negatively influence the reader? How so and/or why?

3. What moral lesson or ethical teaching is the author presenting in the text/or through character, plot, or theme?

4. How do characters, settings, and plot events represent or allegorize moral or ethical principles?

5. Does the work in question pose a pragmatic or moral lesson or philosophical idea?

Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones – illustrates the moral superiority of a hot-blooded young man like Tom, whose sexual indulgences are decidedly atoned for by his humanitarianism, tender-heartedness, and instinctive honor
According to critic Paul Elmer More in his work "Criticism":"It is the critic’s duty, to determine the moral tendency of literary works and to judge them on that basis...The greatest critics are “discriminators between the false and the true, the deformed and the normal: preachers of harmony and proportion and order, prophets of the religion of taste.”
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