Shaped by Stories: The Ethical Power of Narratives

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In his latest book, Marshall Gregory begins with the premise that our lives are saturated with stories, ranging from magazines, books, films, television, and blogs to the words spoken by politicians, pastors, and teachers. He then explores the ethical implication of this nearly universal human obsession with narratives. Through careful readings of Katherine Anne Porter's "The Grave," Thurber's "The Catbird Seat," as well as David Copperfield and Wuthering Heights, Gregory asks (and answers) the question: How do the stories we absorb in our daily lives influence the kinds of persons we turn out to be?

"Shaped by Stories weaves its own compelling story about the pervasive ethical effects of reading narrative, with Marshall Gregory serving as a highly engaging and ethically admirable narrator—a very model of good company." —James Phelan, Distinguished University Professor of English, Ohio State University

"Marshall Gregory's Shaped by Stories brings ethical criticism to the level of felt experience. Witty and passionate, full of personal reflections and sharp examples, this book will help anyone who has been drawn to the mysterious power of stories to think more carefully about the connections between narrative art and human ethos. Gregory reminds us that the urgency of our need for stories is tied permanently to the need to exercise judgment, belief, and empathy in the process of becoming who we are." —Annette Federico, James Madison University

"From a lifetime of reflecting on the ethics of fiction, Marshall Gregory has given us an elegant analysis of the power of stories to instruct and delight. No one interested in storytelling will want to be without this incisive guide to both the myriad ways that stories shape our lives and the strategies writers use to affect our responses. Both the theoretical and practical halves of Shaped by Stories have clarity and eloquence." —Robert D. Denham, Fishwick Professor of English, Emeritus, Roanoke College

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Gregory's overarching thesis is 'that stories are an important component of the ethical development that all human beings undergo because stories are an important component of every human being's education about the world.' . . . [an] elegantly written, amiable, argot-free study. Gregory fills the book with relevant personal examples and draws on a lifetime of engagement with narratives and thoughtful, down-to-earth considerations of their impact. A generous works cited makes it an exceptionally useful resource. . . . This is a book every serious reader should investigate and all libraries should own. Essential." —Choice
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780268029746
  • Publisher: University of Notre Dame Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2009
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,055,319
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Marshall W. Gregory is Ice Professor of English, Liberal Education, and Pedagogy at Butler University. He is co-author of Teaching and Learning English Literature.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Reading for life 1

Ch. 2 What is ethical agency, why should you care, and what do stories have to do with your ethical agency? 19

Ch. 3 For good or ill : stories as ethical education 31

Ch. 4 Stories and the ethics of experience 49

Ch. 5 Judgment that bites, assent that risks 63

Ch. 6 Story as companionship 81

Ch. 7 Ethics of narrative in a practical vein : ethical invitations in Katherine Anne Porter's "The grave" 97

Ch. 8 Ethics of narrative in a practical vein once more : invitations to misogyny in James Thurber's "The catbird seat" 121

Ch. 9 Ethical engagements over time : reading and rereading David Copperfield and Wuthering Heights 143

Ch. 10 Postscript : toward an ethical theory 167

Notes 197

Works cited 207

Index 215

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