Romantic microethics

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Abstract / Description of output

Ethical thought typically aims to provide a general account of the good. This essay explores a form of localized ethical attention through British Romantic writing that eschews that aspiration, privileging individual cases in all their detail and particularity. This form, which I term “microethics,” is small in two senses, permitting extremely close observation of individual cases and limiting itself to equally small conclusions. It is most recognizable in poetry but recurs across fiction, drama, and philosophical prose. Considering such thinking allows us to assess and extend recent arguments for the value of Romanticism's small and marginal forms. While Romantic microethics develops in opposition to emerging utilitarian thought and the politically repressive conditions of the 1790s, it anticipates a range of later forms, from Adorno's ethical fragments to deconstruction to anthropological method. At once literary and philosophical, it binds both writing and reading practices to acts of singular attention.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)746-761
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 26 Nov 2021


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