“The Whole Story”: On Narrative Philosophy and Religious Morals

In this essay I begin with Aristotle’s perplexing observation that a tragic drama is a “whole,” one identified by a clear beginning, middle and ending. I pause to wonder how Aristotle imagines such ends, given his contention that a play concludes in such a way that “nothing can follow from it.” On the face of it, it is very difficult to imagine what Aristotle has in mind here. I suggest that one clue may be found in his title, Poetics, with its clear suggestion that a dramatic event is in fact a making, a poiesis. I develop this idea to suggest that the end of a story, any story, tends to be something the reader imposes, often in the interest of generating a specific moral. I then display these readerly dynamics by providing a close reading of the famous story from Genesis, concerning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I explore a number of different ways in which this story may be thought to “end,” as well as the implications of each such ending
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    Frank Kermode (1967). The Sense of an Ending. New York, Oxford University Press.

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