Narrative life in Philip Sidney
This thesis investigates the relations bcth\ccn the conception of action in ethics and the
conception of narrative in literary studies. I firstly argue that literary narrative is used to
conceptualise our understanding of action. and that thus it forms a type of ethical discourse. I
then study the way in which literary narrative is used as ethical discourse in the \\ork of the
Elizabethan author Philip Sidney.
argue that action and narrative can only be understood in terms of each other. Thus \\c
conceptualise the world through narrative and by using narrative Actions arc only made
intelligible as part of a possible sequence of actions. Literary narratives can only be understood
through the generally available concepts of action. Thus, literary narratives. while the \, cannot
be reduced to philosophy or politics. are formed by and help to form our conceptions of action
and ethics in the \\orld. For this reason, the meaning of a literary \\ork (conceived of as an
action) cannot depend upon the intention of the author
I then turn to ho\\ some of these themes are understood in the use of Renaissance rhetoric and
by the \\ritcr Philip Sidney.
Despite its explicit privileging of heroic. Sidney"s Defence (f Poetry privileges comedy as a
central literary form. The structure of the plot of Sidney"s Arcadia is that of a comedy. Thus.
the ethics of the Old Arcadia, as a comic ethics, cannot be understood only in terms of the
implementation and subversion of moral rules. Instead, the ethics operates using a distinction
bct\\cen agents who attempt to resist the effects of fortune on their self-definitions. and those
agents \\ho alter their self-definitions in response to fortune. The work symbolises an ethics
that is subversive of certain explicit codes, but that is nonetheless a definite ethos.