Reconciling pragmatism and literary theory: Beaumont and Fletcher's The Maid's Tragedy and its ethics pragmatically considered
McKnight, Joshua Alan
AdvisorConnor, Francis X.
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Seeking to find a way forward for literary theory in the face of the slow dissolution of the postmodern era, this research project draws from the philosophy of pragmatism and investigates a play with the purpose of revitalizing confidence in our abilities as critics for obtaining a truer understanding, a greater appreciation, and a heightened enjoyment of literary works. It argues that the merits of pragmatism warrant a positive readjustment of our attitudes towards commonsense ideas of reason, truth, history, biography, interpretation, and authorship away from the Cartesian method of incessant skepticism and universal doubt that so creatively motivated postmodern thinkers, and towards a coherentist, instrumentalist, meliorative, and fallibilist strategy which properly acknowledges the limits of our subjectivity and the accomplishments of postmodern efforts without pessimistically abandoning all belief in the veracity and value of our literary experiences, in all their aesthetic, linguistic, genetic, historic, and cultural complexity. Accomplishing this goal requires a successful demonstration of method, which I attempt to realize, as far as is possible in a single presentation, by accurately identifying, through research into the philosophical and cultural history of ethical thought, a central thematic meaning and possible authorial motivation in Beaumont and Fletcher's drama The Maid's Tragedy.
Thesis (M.A.)--Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of English