The Moral Measure of Literature



What does morality have to do with literature? In an essay on “The Idea of Moral Criticism,” and in his book On Moral Fiction, John Gardner asserts that moral affirmation is the most fundamental artistic value. In his view, most criticism in our century evades the real task of criticism, which is the evaluation or assessment of literary works. He singles out the New Criticism as the most influential of such evasions and asserts that “true art treats ideals, affirming and clarifying the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Ideals are art’s ends; the rest is mere methodology. True criticism, what I am calling ‘moral criticism,’ may speak of technique, but its ultimate concern is with ends.” He thinks the schools of criticism in our age are “too neat, too intellectual, too ‘scientific’ to deal with so lively and unpredictable a creature as art” and “they ignore the very essence of art, which is emotional affirmation.”


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Print ISSN: 2837-0031
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