Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association (PAMLA)/Penn State University Press
In 1978, the novelist John Gardner published a rather slender treatise called On Moral Fiction in which he claimed that true art must be moral, that little art being produced then was moral and, therefore, that most of his contemporaries were either bad artists or not artists at all.1 It is difficult to recall a book about literature and/or ethics-at least one written by a novelist or poet rather than, say, by William Bennett-that has been received with so much hostility, especially among other writers and artists. Was the hostile response deserved, or is there, beneath the polemics and diatribes, anything worth listening to in Gardner's call for renewed attention to the ethical obligations and effects of fiction or of literature more generally?
Edelstein, M. (1996). Ethics and Contemporary American Literature: Revisiting the Controversy over John Gardner's On Moral Fiction. Pacific Coast Philology, 31(1), 40-53. doi:10.2307/1316768