Was there an ethical turn in literary studies? No. Ethics did not have to return; it had never gone away. So-called post-structuralism always had an ethical dimension, however unacknowledged. So-called post-humanism, which condemns human mistreatment of the nonhuman world by unarticulated ethical standards that the nonhuman world could not possibly articulate or apply to itself, is only the latest instance of a rule that holds as much for the anti-normative Michel Foucault as for Marxism, feminism, or New Critical formalism: over most of the past century, ethical judgment has never not been central to the discipline's everyday practices, and that centrality shows every sign of continuing. If you don't believe it, take a closer look at recent arguments about aesthetics.

This does need to be said, however. First, because ethics has not been equally central to the discipline's self-understanding. And second, because there has never been agreement about what ought...

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