Peter Rabinowitz Co-Authors Essay on Huckleberry Finn
Sidney Wertimer Professor of Comparative Literature Peter J. Rabinowitz and James Phelan, of Ohio State University, have contributed “Twain, Huck, Jim, and Us: Or, the Ethics of Progression in Huckleberry Finn” to a new book titled Narrative Ethics (edited by Jakob Lothe and Jeremy Hawthorn and published by Rodopi). Rabinowitz and Phelan, described in the editors’ introduction as “undoubtedly the best-known practitioners” of rhetorical narrative theory, use the concept of progression to cast new light on the ethical questions that have long plagued readers of Huckleberry Finn.
Building on their previous work on the novel, Rabinowitz and Phelan here distinguish “the ethics of the told” (the ethical relationships in the world of the novel) and “the ethics of the telling” (the ethical relationships between author, narrator, and audience), with particular attention to what they call the ethics of progression. They then use this framework to illuminate the precise way in which Twain reneges on his ethical commitments to his readers.