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moral criticism


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A tendency—rather than a recognized school—within literary criticism to judge literary works according to moral rather than formal principles. Moral criticism is not necessarily censorious or ‘moralizing’ in its approach, although it can be; nor does it necessarily imply a Christian perspective, although it often does. Moral critics include D. H. Lawrence, whose position was pagan, and extolled the virtue of ‘life’ as a force to be nourished through literature; T. S Eliot, who was Christian, and judged works in terms of their ability to clarify life, and give it meaning; F. R. Leavis, who thought literature should be ‘improving’, that by reading it one should become a better person. Moral criticism is also concerned with the ‘seriousness’ of a work and whether its purpose is worthy of its means—it is from this perspective than one speaks of such things as ‘gratuitous’ sex in a novel, or nudity in a film, when it isn't seen to serve the moral purpose of the narrative.

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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