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A Call for Love in Revealing the Human Stain

Author ZuoShuangMei
Tutor ZhangShuNing
School Guangxi Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Philip Roth ethical ideas ethical literary criticism The Human Stain
Type Master's thesis
Year 2008
Downloads 294
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Philip Roth is one of the most prominent and prolific contemporary American writers. From 1959 until now his 28 books have won him almost all of the main American literature awards, including a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. In 2001, Time magazine chose Philip Roth as“Best American Novelist”. The academia abroad has paid much attention to all of his works, and since the 1990s, there has been an upsurge of Roth studies. The academia at home has also begun to pay more attention to his works in recent years. There have been 2 doctoral dissertations, 8 master theses, and more than 10 journal essays devoted to Roth studies. However, that is not enough for such an important writer, comparing to the Roth studies abroad. The previous Roth studies mainly pay attention to identity and race, individual’s relationship with history and politics, family conflicts, etc. in his writing. There has been little study at home and abroad approaching to Roth’s works from ethical perspective. Therefore, this thesis attempts to explore Roth’s depiction of the human nature in The Human Stain from an ethical perspective, adopting the method of ethical literary criticism, trying to find out Roth’s ethical ideas in the novel.The thesis is made up of four chapters.Chapter One is the introduction of the thesis. Firstly it introduces briefly about Philip Roth’s biography, main works and awards, then it reviews the previous studies on Roth and on The Human Stain, finally it proposes that the thesis is to explore the ethical ideas in The Human Stain.Chapter Two gives an introduction to the main ideas of ethical literary criticism advocated by Professor Nie Zhenzhao and some other Chinese scholars and Roth’s ethical ideas in his major works.Chapter Three is the main body of the thesis. It tries to analyze The Human Stain from ethical perspective. Firstly it discusses the moral and political problems of contemporary American society in the novel, including the hypocrisy of political correctness, the hypocritical morality and self-interest motivation behind political activities from the“spook incident”,Coleman’s love affair and Lesley’s miserable life. Secondly, it analyzes Roth’s ethical ideas on Coleman’s passing from black as Jewish: praising his fighting for racial equality and condemning his selfishness in doing so. Finally, it explores Roth’s ethical ideas on love, marriage and family by analyzing Coleman’s relationships with three women, with his parents and children and points out that Roth denounces selfishness, praises unselfishness and unconditional love, and longs for understanding and tolerance in love, marriage and family relationships.Chapter Four is the conclusion of the thesis. In the novel Roth relentlessly reveals the ugly behaviors in contemporary American society, points out the self-interest in human nature, and expresses his longing for a society of freedom, equality, justice, and full of understanding and love.

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