Volume 21, Issue 1, 2021
Aethetics and Philosophy of Art
A Literary Aesthetics of War Crime
In order to develop a literary aesthetics of war crime, I examine the phenomenon of moral immunity in military memoir. Using three paradigmatic examples of memoirs of unjust wars characterised by the routine perpetration of war crimes, I argue that moral immunity is achieved by means of three literary devices: literary irresponsibility, ethical peerage, and moral economy. I then employ the proposed literary aesthetics of war crime to provide an answer to the perennial question of the relationship between literature and morality as well as to two specific instantiations of this question, the value interaction debate in literary aesthetics and the ethics of reading in literary theory. My conclusion is that the literary aesthetics of war crime demonstrates both that there is a systematic relationship between aesthetic value and moral value and that there is no systematic relationship between literary ambiguity and moral uncertainty.