Macquarie University
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Fiction and the moral imagination,: & The swing of the sea : a novel

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posted on 2022-03-28, 15:28 authored by Eleanor Robin Throsby
This creative writing thesis examines the role of the moral imagination in the reading and writing of fiction through a theoretical investigation of its history and influence, both on literary criticism and on the practice of fiction writing. The creative part of the thesis consistsof a novel that reflects the ideas explored in the theoretical part of the thesis. Moral imagination is defined as being the human capacity to enter imaginatively into the situations of others who may be very different from ourselves. The central proposition of the thesis is that fiction is peculiarly positioned to exercise a reader's moral imagination through its capacity to show the complexity and difficulty of ethical choice. Relevant literary and philosophical positions are evaluated, and it is argued that the moral imagination offers a conceptual framework embracing both the emotional and intellectual aspects of ethical dilemmas. It is further argued that an appreciation of alterity lies at the heart of morality and that the postmodern era of literary criticism, often seen as antithetical to the practice of ethical criticism, has been misinterpreted. The novel The Swing of the Sea forms the creative part of the thesis. It is set in Sydney between the years 1996 and 2007. The novel's main protagonist, Stephen, is a progressive thinker, critical of government ethics, while making some dubious choices of his own. Stephen and his family live in a period of conflict and violence in the world around them, while feeling safe in their comfortable suburb. One night, complacency is shattered by a terrible unpredictable event, after which everything changes for Stephen as he is forced to comprehend the nature of personal responsibility. The novel explores the parallels between the political and the personal and the way human behaviour is affected by the overarching cultural context in which it occurs.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. A Beginning, an invention, a discovery : introduction -- Chapter 2. Realms of gold : the first half of the twentieth century -- Chapter 3. Cat's cradle : the moral imagination and postmodernism -- Chapter 4. A leaf of sage : fiction, moral philosophy and the ethical turn -- Chapter 5. Oddity and light : a consideration of two novels -- Chapter 6. Of what is past, or passing, or to come : conclusion -- Works cited.


Volume 2 involves a creative component and cannot be made available due to copyright reason Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 122-131 of volume 1

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Jane Messer


Copyright Eleanor Robin Throsby 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




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