How fiction and literature shape moral thinking
Posted on December 10, 2012
Tauriq Moosa makes an interesting point on his blog, Against the New Taboo:
Literature, like novels and comics, allow us to experience such taboos “first-hand”: it’s happening “to you” and “no one else”, though it still allows you to talk it out with fellow readers.
Weaving these kinds of social taboos, along with strictly comics taboos, writers like John Milton, James Joyce, and – as I will be arguing in follow up posts – comic writer Alan Moore help move readers forward in their thinking to be better moral agents and, therefore, better people.
Hitting close to the mind also means hitting close to the heart, in these cases. Writers, as creator gods, can fashion characters we can – often literally – fall in love with, only to kill them off due to the dictates of story. Consider how often people have cried over poetry, over literature, or, indeed, over character deaths. Characters aren’t merely “squiggles on a page”: they are given form and life as much as anyone else – our reactions might be less by degrees, but not different in terms of kind.
The ethical importance then of literature and fictional story-telling – in the form of novels, comics, even video games, films and television – is that of the safe space we’re allotted to test our and other kinds of morality.
As Moosa said, he is planning follow-up posts. Keep an eye on his blog for those.