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Intuition of an Infinite Obligation

Narrative Ethics and Postmodern Gnostics in the Fiction of E. L. Doctorow


Catharine Walker Bergström

Grounded in theoretical studies of postmodern and narrative ethics, this book proposes the need for a re-examination of E. L. Doctorow’s work from an ethical perspective. Through in-depth analyses of previously neglected intertexts, it questions the classification of his fiction as an expression of postmodern skepticism. Seven of Doctorow’s most widely acclaimed novels are dealt with in chronological order, tracing his finely tuned characterizations of the human quest for narrative truth. Growing out of the early protagonists’ vague sense of moral consciousness is their recognition of an obligation to interpret signs from and for the Other. Through logical deliberation and close reading, the study gradually identifies the narrative voice of the post-modern gnostic.