Faculty Advisor

Beardsley, William, Protasi, Sara

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2020


This paper is intended as a critique and development of morality in literature, seeking to prove that literature can have deep effects on a reader's moral character. The stakes for such research are rather high: especially during the pandemic, our culture is heavily informed by social and mass media, and it is hard to imagine a good future for the world if these mediums cannot shake the status quo.

Though this paper takes a narrower scope of investigation than moral progress itself, the reader should keep in mind that all of our practices of communication can and should be informed by literary tradition, among other practices. For art is our name for the most refined and deliberate artifacts of human expression, capable of great scale, subtlety, and mass dissemination. Morality in communication is explored here through literature, but I hope the reader will make an attempt to apply any knowledge gleaned to as diverse a range of their practices as is possible.

The basic issue of my research is that conventional calls to action, for example Sarah McLachlan's famous SPCA commercials, are not terribly effective. This is obvious insofar as there is a saturation of these calls to action, and a shocking lack of action or concern from many, but I will also seek to justify this in the theories of Immanuel Levinas, then develop a solution from a more philosophical framing of the problem, with Louis Althusser's writings on ideology, as well as case studies from literature.

Eventually, this all leads to the question: how do we address ideology in art? Which will hopefully be somewhat answered by the development of the question, and further addressed by the case studies comprising the latter half of this writing.


University of Puget Sound