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Achieving ‘At-one-ment’

Storytelling and the Concept of the "Self</I> in Ian McEwan’s "The Child in Time, Black Dogs, Enduring Love</I>, and "Atonement</I>


Claudia Schemberg

Ian McEwan’s novels are characterised by innovative forms of plot-oriented storytelling that combine a pronounced interest in contemporary (British) culture and (recent) history with a concern for social and ethical questions. Novels like The Child in Time, Black Dogs, Enduring Love, and Atonement draw the reader’s attention to the difficulty, complexity, and relativity of value commitments in a world where prescriptive master narratives and old essentialisms have been debunked. This book undertakes to incorporate the discussion of storytelling and the concept of the self into the discourse of values revived by ethical critics at the turn of the millennium. Bringing together findings from philosophy, psychology, literary and cultural studies, the study introduces a concept of the self that acknowledges our ineradicable need for structures of meaning and orientation while taking into account the plurality and heterogeneity of postmodern ways of life.


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Table of Contents


0. INTRODUCTION 7 1. THE STORIED SELF IN MORAL SPACE 11 1.1 The Ethical Turn in Literary Criticism, or: Essays in Retrieval 11 1.2 Facing Contingency: Fragmentations of Self and Morality 15 1.3 Inescapable Frameworks and Shifting Horizons: 19 Towards a Narrative Concept of the Self 2. SETTING THE SCENE: THE POSTMODERN CHALLENGE 25 TO THE SELF 2.1 A Whole Supermarket of Theories: Exploring the Panorama 25 of Ian McEwan's Novels 2.2 Rising to the Challenge: Narrative (Sey=)Creation 31 3. UNFOLDING THE MAP OF LIFE: LOCATING THE SELF 39 3.1 Being a Self to Yourself: Identity and Orientation 39 3.2 Self Among Other Selves: Autonomy versus Commitment 43 4. TAKING PERSPECTIVES: STORIES OF THE SELF 49 4.1 The Poly-Storied Seif Selfhood and Cultural Tradition 49 4.2 The Two Cultures Debate: Science versus Literature 51 4.3 Metaphysician Meets Ironist: Rationalism, Scientism, 61 and Mysticism 5. AT THE CROSSROADS: THE IMPACT OF THE SINGULAR ON 71 THE CONCEPT OF THE SELF 5.1 Dealing with Epistemological Crises: Redescriptions and 71 New Horizons 5.2 Love, Loss, and Guilt: The Emotional Geography of the Self 81 6. JOURNEY' S END: ACHIEVING `AT-ONE-MENT'? 87 6.1 Towards Greater Solidarity: Introducing the Liberal Ironist 87 6.2 Tying Knots and Closing Questions? 91 5 7. CONCLUSION 97 8. WORKS CITED 101 6

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