Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Margaret McNay


Aspiring entrepreneurs need and want ethics education. Authentic, robust educational resources and personalized instructional methods are not, however, available in professional or scholarly settings. Textbooks focus on large corporations and do not provide a framework to coordinate various ethical theories. Alternatively, some instructors use literary theory and real life exemplars to frame and teach ethics. In my dissertation, I expand on the characterization of the entrepreneur as a liberal artist and poet, isolate the ethical dilemmas presented by the entrepreneurial setting, summarize the strengths and limits of four major ethical theories, and identify current educational aims, resources and instructional methods. To address limitations, I introduce and demonstrate foundational, conceptual and teleological links between ethics, education, entrepreneurship, and the Humanities in general and Poetics in particular. I show the ways in which four major ethical theories, virtue ethics, deontology, utilitarianism, and moral ecology are subsumed in and can be respectively operationalized by Frye’s (1957) notions of character, literary plot, literary genre, and his overall stance with regard to Poetics. I apply Frye’s Poetic structure to four autobiographies written by exemplary entrepreneurs across four generations from 1867 to 2007 in the beauty industry in order to establish that Poetics provides a much needed, grounding foundation, a natural, instructional approach, and authoritative, comprehensive resources for ethics education for entrepreneurs. My exposition makes significant contributions to theory, pedagogy, and practice by explicating Poetics as a simple, authentic, iterative way for entrepreneurs and their educators find answers to the primary question in ethics, What is a good life?