Barber, Stephen, M.

Advisor Department





Foucault; Woolf; justice; ethics; philosophy; society

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is primarily known today as a central British modernist novelist. In addition, she was also an important theorist of power, subjectivity, and ethics, especially as she turned her attention in the 1930s--as fascism spread and intensified across Europe--toward the public sphere in which European women were still then more or less without (easy) access. I read her late novels and essays alongside her diary in order to excavate the theoretical/political/ethical premises of her thought. I contend that she shares with the late thought of French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984) an original conception of ethics. Woolf and Foucault’s works communicate to and with one another, collectively speaking of the practice of freedom as a political version of ethics. Guided by their vision, I suggest that social justice transforms from an administration of "peace" (war by other means) to a practice that opens to ceaseless and vigilant critique in the form of courageous truth-telling in the interest of a newly redefined conception of justice.

The object of Methods of Justice is to observe many philosophies concerning justice, beginning with those of Woolf and Foucault. With the joined views of Woolf and Foucault, the thesis observes the philosophies of Sophocles, Plato, Niccoló Machiavelli, Thomas Hobbes, Edmund Burke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ward Churchill, John Stuart Mill, and Laurie Zoloth as a means to broaden the methodological scope of the approaches of justice within various societies.