Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Question of Reception Ethics: Amity and Animosity in Ian McEwan's "Amsterdam"

By Jen-Chieh Tsai

Abstract

"Amsterdam", as distinguished from Ian McEwan's other novels, stands out for its highlight of temporality and the implied urgency to tackle one's moral identity. Namely, the novel is concerned with waiting: McEwan shows Clive consistently pressurized by the deadlines of submitting his symphony for rehearsal and Vernon rather obsessed with the day of exposing Garmony's pictures. Such waiting forces them to make decisions, and the decisions invariably suggest applications of values and attitudes. The overriding temporal frame of the novel is even more evocative. Readers are reminded over and again, along with Clive, that a new millennium is ahead (the novel itself was first published in 1998). In light of this, the author appears to juxtapose two temporal structures: the time of mundanity for the characters and a time that is messianic and affranchising, thus stressing an ethical vision, possibly beyond what the self-centered British society in the novel can foresee. All the underlying attention to temporal expressions and the foregrounded contingency of life only reinforces the author's call for moral inquiries and search for accountable, ethical stances in an era of flux and disintegration. To study the ethical terrain as depicted in the novel, this paper focuses on the ideas of friendliness and enmity and analyzes the interaction between its four male characters. They remain friends, Clive and Vernon in particular, but underneath are the on-going processes of defining and re-defining friendship and the tempting of ethical limits. It is then contended that the author's moral position in the novel tends toward the Derridean unconditional hospitality and, therein conventional understanding of friends and enemies is hardly tenable, requiring, therefore, conceptual revision. To bring home this view, this paper first interprets friendliness and enmity by virtue of Jacques Derrida's theorization of hospitality and next examines the characters' mutual engagement following the Derridean perspective. One comes to realize that the novel is aptly a tale of hospitality, with friendship narrowly constructed as it is in Conservative rule and the City of Amsterdam-as a spatial metaphor-pointing to the hardly redeeming state of the matter

Topics: Ian McEwan, Amsterdam, hospitality, amity, animosity, ethics
Publisher: 臺中市:國立中興大學外國語文學系
Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:ir.lib.nchu.edu.tw:11455/81312
Download PDF:
Sorry, we are unable to provide the full text but you may find it at the following location(s):
  • http://hdl.handle.net/11455/81... (external link)
  • Suggested articles


    To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.