Re: RARA-AVIS: morality & the unreliable narrator

From: Robert Elkin (
Date: 25 Feb 2007

1) Did a postmodernist run over your dog or something, miker? Even if so, that's hardly something that supports your trashing of the entire educational system out of some intolerant ideological pique. Each spring & fall I end up with over a hundred students in the various college classes that I teach, & about 95% of them DO NOT think that morality, as you seem to put it, is an entirely personal/relative idea. The vast majority of them have figured out somehow that it's nobody's moral business who they become intimate with or what (if any) entity they worship, but it's unacceptable to go out & shoot people. Unless you're going to war, that is. Or unless the person's killed someone else. No, wait-- that's moral relativism, isn't it?

2) And by the way--isn't "noir" all about personal moralities & such things? The existential turn, & all that? How do you characterize the Op as a sympathetic creation, for example, without mr?

3) And finally, re "Cask": Students seem to have been trained by their high-school teachers to view narrators as essentially reliable, as these narrators are the sources for the tales they tell. In my experience, most students interchange the words
"narrator" & "author" without noticing what they're doing, & think subconsciously that narrators are neutral figures that should always be believed & trusted, instead of realizing that they are merely creatures manufactured by writers to express a point of view that isn't always viable or in tune with some standard. (And yes, there's some relativism there in that last sentence, but it's writerly, not readerly, & its implications are not nearly as dramatic or as evil-seeming as your flaming hyperbole wishes to suggest. Straw men are for cornfields, Johnny Storm.)

--- Michael Robison <> wrote:

> Frederick Zackel wrote:
> And 90% of the students don't get it: because he is
> the only narrator, they sympathize with Montressor.
> else why would anybody wall the guy up?
> *************
> I'd say that you are the one that doesn't get it.
> The
> reason they sympathize with Montressor is that they
> have been taught that morality is simply a personal
> opinion, and that making moral judgements is a
> prejudicial act best avoided. Criminals become
> victims. Terrorist become freedom fighters. By
> spoon-feeding them this thin gruel of postmodern
> pablum, this is the impasse that academia have
> brought
> to education.
> miker

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