Cover image for The terrible power of a minor guilt : literary essays
The terrible power of a minor guilt : literary essays
Yehoshua, Abraham B.
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Essays. Selections. English
First edition.
Publication Information:
[Syracuse, N.Y.] : Syracuse University Press, 2000.
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xxii, 145 pages ; 23 cm
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PN49 .Y4413 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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What is the relationship between literature and morality? Theatre and ethics? Film and moral values? Israeli novelist and critic Abraham B. Yehoshua considers these crucial questions and discusses nine literary works to show how the moral issue renders new readings and understandings of them.

Author Notes

Abraham B. Yehoshua, known commonly as A.B. Yehoshua, was born in Jerusalem on December 19, 1936. He studied Hebrew literature and philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has taught at high-school and university levels and is currently a professor of literature at Haifa University.

He is a novelist, essayist, and playwright. His first book of stories, The Death of the Old Man, was published in 1962. His novels include Mr. Mani, Open Heart, Five Seasons, and Friendly Fire. He won the Israeli Prize in 1994.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Yehoshua, one of Israel's major novelists (Five Seasons; Mr. Mani), believes that the moral component of literature demands more attention in the current literary climate. Yehoshua writes that in this time of cultural relativism, literature has the power to show moral development and character change. This leads to the growth of the reader's self-knowledge, which Yehoshua maintains is sometimes available only through literary art. The complex social situations of marriage and guilt are discussed by using the works of Euripedes, Joseph Brenner ("The Way Out," "Nerves"), Fyodor Dostoevsky ("The Eternal Husband"), William Faulkner, and Shmuel Yosef Agnon ("In the Prime of Life"). Other artists discussed are the authors of the Old Testament (Adam and Eve), Albert Camus, and Raymond Carver. Murder, the absurd, and unconscious desire are other moral questions he raises. Yehoshua's close reading and moral commitment makes this an invaluable work. Recommended for literature collections.DGene Shaw NYPL, New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

One of Israel's leading novelists and short story writers, Yehoshua often imparts a distinctive moral dimension in his fiction (The Lover; Mr. Mani): the reader experiences the stirrings of conscience that lead characters to difficult but redeeming choices. Now, Yehoshua departs from his usual fictional mode to discuss the moral elements in literature. Following a chronological sequence, he examines eight classics in the genres of Greek drama, 19th- and 20th-century novels, and contemporary American short fiction--literature ranging from the biblical story of Cain and Abel to Raymond Carver's Cathedral and including work by Euripides, Camus, Joseph Hayyim Brenner, Dostoyevsky, Faulkner, and S.Y. Agnon. The essays cohere thematically on Yehoshua's claim that he is countering the present cultural situation where moral issues have been avoided and rarely make an appearance "in written critiques of novels, stories, plays, or even films." But though earnestly argued, Yehoshua's claim is only partially fulfilled. The essays bear the mark of classroom lectures: considerable repetition in phrasing, terms of analysis, and clarification in the face of the students' failings. These minor reservations aside, the book offers a major novelist's original and compelling interpretations, insight into his critical sensibility, and subtle and enlightening readings. Upper-division undergraduates and above. M. Butovsky Concordia University

Table of Contents

EuripidesAlbert CamusJoseph Chaim BrennerFyodor DostoyevskyWilliam FaulknerS. Y. AgnonRaymond Carver
Introductionp. vii
Part 1 Moral Diversions Using the Text's Aesthetic Structure
1. What Was the Real Punishment Inflicted on History's First Murderer?
The Biblical Story of Cain and Abel, Genesis 4p. 3
2. The Morals of a Husband Who Lets His Wife Die in His Place
Alcestisp. 17
3. The Absurd as a Moral Guide
"The Guest"p. 41
Part 2 The Moral Boundaries of Psychology
4. Morality Based on Guilt or Morality Based on Sympathy
"The Way Out" and Nervesp. 59
5. The Terrible Power of a Minor Guilt
The Eternal Husbandp. 74
Part 3 The Moral Responsibility of Denial Processes
6. Society Pays Homage to a Murderess with a Freshly Cut Rose
"A Rose for Emily"p. 89
7. A Father and a Daughter in an Unconscious Relationship
In the Prime of Her Lifep. 108
Part 4 Moral Development as Aesthetic Value
8. How to Build a Moral Code on a Used Shopping Bag
"Cathedral"p. 133