Barber, Stephen

Advisor Department





Philosophy and writing (as a way of life); ethics; ascesis; critique; truth-telling; self-care

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Creative Commons License
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The Perpetual Creation and Provocation of the Self

Krista D’Amico

Faculty Sponsor: Stephen Barber, English

This project consists of four related parts. The first part is a critical and creative work of prose in which I converse with the thought of two philosophers, namely Spinoza and Gilles Deleuze. This conversation enables me to present my own thought and subjectivity in relationship to a very important aspect of my life: music-making. The second part of my project is a critical essay in which I contemplate the work of another artist, Virginia Woolf, and the way that her credo Three Guineas (1938) corresponds with the late work of philosopher Michel Foucault on the care of the self, the art of life, and the ethics of enlightenment as an attitude of modernity.

These latter two figures and the ideas with which they work resonate with much of Spinozian philosophy, particularly the notion that a life is to be a work of art. These two segments of the project are followed by the project’s third portion, two poems that attempt to respond to and enact in different ways these philosophies and texts. Woolf and Foucault both conceive of the free soul as a condition at which one might arrive through an ethics that creates openings for exiting from individualizing power relations. Those openings are produced by way of an art of life that includes ascetic practices one performs on the self. Through my poetry, I attempt to engage such practices, perform such ethics, and participate in the persistent effort that is enlightenment.

The fourth and concluding part of the project is a narrative meditation on the project itself. This self-reflexive work of prose considers 1) the project’s evolution and implications for future work; 2) the capacities and demands of different written forms in terms of voice with regard to ascetic practices; and 3) the ways that Spinoza, Deleuze, Woolf, Foucault, and myself generated the conditions of possibility for my poetry and for this project.