This post starts where the previous one, Ethical Criticism in the Wild, ends, looking forward.
Let me begin with a passage from the end of Wayne Booth, The Company We Keep. He’s just quoted from a Chekov story (“Home”) observes (p. 484)
We all have “this foolish habit,” [liking stories] and we all are by nature caught in the ambiguities that trouble the prosecutor. Yet we are all equipped, by a nature (a “second nature”) that has created us out of story, with a rich experience in choosing which life stories, fictional or “real,” we will embrace wholeheartedly. Who we are, who we will be tomorrow depends thus on some act of criticism, whether by ourselves or by those who determine what stories will come our way – criticism wise or foolish, deliberate or spontaneous, conscious or unconscious: “You may enter; you must go away – and I will do my best to forget you.”
Each culture provides every member with an unlimited number of “natural” choices that seem to require no thought.
Let me repeat: “Who we are, who we will be tomorrow depends thus on some act of criticism…” But we cannot know the future. We can only try to guide present actions in a certain direction.
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Here’s a longish comment I made in John Holbo’s discussion, Raiders of the Last Arc, a Pretty Good Film. First the set-up: Bloix had suggested that Waring read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom, “with a woman protagonist written for the most part in the first person” (comment 165). In comment 171 Waring replies, “Why should I be compelled to read Freedom [because it has a female narrator]?”