‘The wild and inward journey of writing’: <i>Atonement</i>

Dominic Head

in Ian McEwan

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780719066566
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781701027 | DOI:
‘The wild and inward journey of writing’: Atonement

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  • Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)


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This chapter analyzes Ian McEwan's Atonement as the creative equivalent or counterpart of narrative ethics. The theme of guilt and atonement is inextricably linked to an investigation of the writer's authority, a process of self-critique conducted through the creation of the writing persona Briony Tallis. This novel establishes a position that represents a mid-ground between the privileging of the autonomous speaking subject and the dissolution of self into larger social and linguistic codes and it evokes a strong sense of lived experience that is morally moving, and yet insists on the constructed nature of fiction and the morally dubious authority wielded by the writer.

Keywords: Atonement; narrative ethics; Ian McEwan; self-critique; Briony Tallis; social codes; linguistic codes

Chapter.  8915 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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