Shang Biwu of Shanghai Jiao Tong University will be giving a presentation entitled "Ethics in Contest: Narrative Progression and Ethical Epiphany in Ian McEwan's The Children Act."
Fifteen years into the twenty-first century, we are at a point when reflection on what has been achieved by novelists in the new century is possible and indeed offers a unique critical opportunity to look at what is happening now in fiction. The first decade of the new millennium has been saliently marked by its fictional creativity and diversity, and thus deconstructs the long-existing rumor “the death of the novel.” Twenty-first century fictional writing is particularly noted for its peculiarly rich features, which entail the implications of entering into a new century and the potent symbolic evocations arising from the millennial and post-millennial discourses. To capture the novelistic responses to our twenty-first century contemporaneity as well as to examine the interconnections between ethics and narrative form, this talk takes rhetorical theory of narrative as its critical point of departure. Using Ian McEwan’s The Children Act (2014) as its case of analysis, it attempts to interrogate the novelistic instabilities (both global and local) contributed and complicated by the characters’ ethical positions. Focusing on narrative judgments and progression in the blood transfusion case of Jehovah’s Witness boy Adam Henry, the talk deliberately tries to offer a descriptive analysis of the ethical epiphanies experienced respectively by Adam and the high court judge Fiona Maye.
Shang Biwu is a Distinguished Fellow of English at Shanghai Jiao Tong University; Fellow of the National Humanities Center, US; and editor-in-chief of Frontiers of Narrative Studies. His areas of research include narrative theory, ethical literary criticism, and twenty-first century fiction. He has published In Pursuit of Narrative Dynamics (2011) and Contemporary Western Narratology: Postclassical Perspectives (2013) as well as about seventy articles, critical notes, and book reviews in journals including Style, Language and Literature, Journal of Literary Semantics, and Modern Fiction Studies.