A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Teenager: Ethical Literary Criticism and David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green

Jiayi Chen

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.13185/KK2022.003909


Inspired by ethical literary criticism, this article attempts to bring to critical attention the ethical dimensions of Mitchell’s war writing in Black Swan Green. By analyzing the way in which Jason’s brain text in relation to war formulates and develops, this article tries to throw light on Mitchell’s strategy of approaching and reconsidering the causes and consequences of war from the perspective of a teenager. It is argued that Mitchell has exploited diverse expressive resources—the art of the fragmentary, for example—to break new ground for rethinking the wars that fade into history. Instead of portraying violent scenes where bloody battles occur, Mitchell directs readerly attention to the emotional and ethical responses provoked in an individual that remains far away from the battlefield. In this sense, the pyrotechnic storytelling in Black Swan Green bears witness to Mitchell’s ongoing efforts to introduce fresh perspectives with which to rethink war and peace and gives full expression to the ethical cosmopolitanism that he expects contemporary readership to embrace in the era of globalization.


Black Swan Green, character focalization, David Mitchell, ethical literary criticism, war writing

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Kritika Kultura
Department of English
School of Humanities
Ateneo de Manila University

The Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) declares Kritika Kultura as a CHED-recognized journal under the Journal Challenge Category of its Journal Incentive Program.

International Board of Editors

Jan Baetens
Faculty of Arts
Katholieke Universiteit te Leuven (Belgium)

Joel David
Professor of Cultural Studies
Inha University (South Korea)

Michael Denning
Professor of American Studies and English
Department of English
Yale University (US)

Faculty of Cultural Sciences
Universitas Gadjah Mada (Indonesia)

Regenia Gagnier
Professor of English
University of Exeter (UK)

Leela Gandhi
John Hawkes Professor of the Humanities and English
Brown University (US)

Inderpal Grewal
Professor of Women's Gender and Sexuality Studies
Professor of South Asian Studies, Ethnicity, Race and Migration Studies
Yale University (US)

Peter Horn
Professor Emeritus and Honorary Lifetime Fellow
University of Cape Town (South Africa)
Honorary Professor and Research Associate in German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

Anette Horn
Professor of German Studies
University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa)

David Lloyd
Distinguished Professor of English
University of California, Riverside (US)

Bienvenido Lumbera
National Artist for Literature
Professor Emeritus
University of the Philippines

Rajeev S. Patke
Director of the Division of Humanities
Professor of Humanities
Yale NUS College (Singapore)

Vicente L. Rafael
Giovanni and Amne Costigan Endowed Professor of History
University of Washington (US)

Vaidehi Ramanathan
Department of Linguistics
University of California, Davis (US)

Temario Rivera
Professorial Lecturer
Department of Political Science
University of the Philippines

E. San Juan, Jr.
Philippines Studies Center (US)

Neferti X.M. Tadiar
Professor of Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Barnard College (US)
Director of the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race
Columbia University (US)

Antony Tatlow
Honorary Professor of Drama
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)