Symposium: "Literature and Ethics"

  • Date: –18:00
  • Location: Engelska parken 6-K1031
  • Organiser: Department of Literature
  • Contact person: Torsten Pettersson
  • Konferens

Higher Seminar in Literature

Ethical questions arise, firstly, when groups or individuals have been wronged. Examples in literary studies include the racist depiction of the Congolese in Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” and the negative and possibly incorrect portrayal of named individuals in autofiction. Secondly, ethical questions are triggered by moral ambiguity: is it indecent to view the Holocaust from a perpetrator’s point of view, as Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones (Les Bienveillantes) does; or is classic Russian literature indelibly vitiated by expansionist Russian nationalism? Thirdly, by exposing oppression and allowing suppressed voices to be heard, literature can provide rich resources for ethical development. Fourthly, is there nevertheless something about literature that also militates against the promotion of desirable values? And finally, if at least some of the effect of literature depends on the eye of the beholder: what is the difference between ethical and unethical ways of reading literature?

The symposium will be in two parts, each with a slightly longer general introduction (20 mins. presentation + 10 mins. discussion) followed by more individualized studies (15 + 5 mins.). The first part roughly concentrates on the reading of literary works, the second ropes in the role of (our image of) the author as well.



14.20  Torsten Pettersson: “The Potential of Literature – for Good and for Ill”

14.50  Mattias Pirholt: “A Sad and Ridiculous Affair: Grotesque Ethics in Carson McCullers’s The Ballad of the Sad Café

15.10  Otto Fischer & Mirey Gorgis: ”Sensitive Personal Data: Towards an Ethics of Aesthetically Oriented Scholarly Research”

15.30  Karynna Sardarian: “Ethical Collisions in Oksana Zabuzhko’s Novel Fieldwork in Ukrainian Sex

15.50  BREAK

16.15  David Gedin: “Good Books and Evil Authors”

16.45  Elliot C. Mason: “Rowan Ricardo Phillips and the Ethics of Inclination”

17.05  Gregory R. Darwin: “Alan Titley’s An Bhean Feasa, ‘The Wise Woman’, and the Myth of Irish Slavery”

17.25  General Discussion: What Have We Learnt? Where Do We Go from Here?


The symposium aims to serve as a meeting point for scholars with literary interests across departments and faculties. Its language will be English. There will be no conference fee and non-contributors are welcome to participate.

Please note the unusual duration of the seminar: 14:15–18:00.