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Reading: ‘The Awful Parenthesis’: Ethics and Aesthetics in De Quincey’s Murder Essays

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‘The Awful Parenthesis’: Ethics and Aesthetics in De Quincey’s Murder Essays

Author:

Johan Wijkmark

Karlstad University, SE
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Abstract

Thomas De Quincey’s series of three essays under the general title ‘On murder considered as one of the fine arts’ (1827–1854) has delighted and puzzled readers and critics for its iconoclastic representation of violent material. Whereas the first two instalments are satirical and comical, clearly parodying amoral, disinterested, approaches to aesthetics and ethics, the last one is more problematic as it seems to embody precisely those approaches. In order to bridge the theoretical gap between the first two and the third, the argument here is that an earlier essay, ‘On the knocking at the gate in Macbeth’ (1823), should be seen as part of the series, based on similarities in form and content. In the course of these four essays, De Quincey creates a metafictional discussion of the relation of ethics and aesthetics that has broader application to later emanations of crime writing as well.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.35360/njes.601
How to Cite: Wijkmark, J., 2020. ‘The Awful Parenthesis’: Ethics and Aesthetics in De Quincey’s Murder Essays. Nordic Journal of English Studies, 19(4), pp.37–60. DOI: http://doi.org/10.35360/njes.601
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Published on 22 Nov 2020.
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