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The Rhetoric of Redemption

Chesterton, Ethical Criticism, and the Common Man


Alan R. Blackstock

The Rhetoric of Redemption: Chesterton, Ethical Criticism, and the Common Man examines the literary criticism written by G. K. Chesterton between 1902 and 1913 from a rhetorical standpoint to ascertain whether Chesterton did in fact create the «criticism for the common man» he aimed for. To answer this question, this book explores the relationships among writers, readers, books, and critics both during the time Chesterton first began writing and in the context of rhetorical and critical tradition from Plato to the present day. Ultimately, this book argues that Chesterton's unorthodox approach to literature, while still dismissed by the academic establishment, raises fundamental questions about the nature and function of literature and criticism that need to be raised anew in every generation and especially in the wake of each new critical episteme.
The Rhetoric of Redemption is extremely useful for both scholars and students of literary criticism and Chesterton enthusiasts who are interested in his approach to literature. This book would also be a valuable resource for courses in nineteenth-century British literature, literary criticism, and rhetorical analysis.


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Afterword: Liberal Humanism and Ethical Criticism in Today’s Academy 123


Afterword Liberal Humanism and Ethical Criticism in Today’s Academy I will conclude by offering a few personal observations regarding the acceptance or exclusion of Christianity, ethical criticism, and liberal human- ism in academia today. While I would agree to a certain extent with Oelschlaeger’s and Oser’s characterizations of the current academic atmos- phere, I might point out that both men succeeded in having the books in which they make these claims published by university presses (Duke for Oelschlaeger and University of Missouri for Oser) that bear no religious affiliation. Oelschlaeger does describe in his afterword that a course he had proposed in literature and ethics that would combine Aristotelian, Kantian, and Christian approaches was shot down by the university administration, however, and I would imagine that others who proposed such a course might run into similar problems at other universities. In my own career I have never encountered any obstacles to creating courses that deal with ethical criticism, though—in fact I taught a graduate course in literary theory that surveyed ethical criticism since Plato and used as principal texts John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction, Wayne Booth’s The Company We Keep, and Martha Nuss- baum’s Poetic Justice. And I inaugurated in 2005 a special topics panel on ethical criticism for the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association convention, a panel that has convened regularly since. Therefore I find some of Oser’s and Oelschlaeger’s protestations a bit extreme, but at the same time I applaud them for raising important issues that deserve...

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