Unselfing interpreted : altered states and the ethics of insight from Valéry to Khatibi
- Altered states of selfhood pervade French and Francophone literature in the twentieth century, from Henri Michaux's mescaline experiments in Paris, to Yolande Mukagasana's harrowing hallucinations during the Rwandan genocide, to Abdelkebir Khatibi's mystical union with the bilingual lover in Morocco. Both desirable experiences (sexual ecstasy, religious experience, and drug-induced visions) and undesirable ones (debilitating thirst, traumatic pain, and incapacitating fear) are recounted in the same phenomenological mode. This dissertation theorizes unselfing -- self-transcendence or self-loss -- in order to undertake the new work of analyzing these diverse accounts together under the same philosophical structure. If we think of Saul's transformation into Paul as a canonical example of the conversion model for unselfing, this project analyzes four other models that emerge in the twentieth century: disruption (Chapter One: Paul Valéry and Charlotte Delbo), mutation (Chapter Two: Henri Michaux and Yolande Mukagasana), fragmentation (Chapter Three: Hélène Cixous and Abdelkebir Khatibi), and destruction (Chapter Four: Georges Bataille and Simone Weil). Studying self-inflicted altered states alongside imposed ones exposes the unexpected convergences in the narrative strategies that writers use to testify to the extremes of the human experience. Moreover, this study offers a new perspective on the limits of empathy. It shows that there is more to altruism than reduced self-interest, and although unselfing may facilitate the sharing of mental states, it does not necessarily increase caring for others. What emerges is a constellation of French-speaking writers who attempt to think through ethics without the self at the center.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Stanford University, Department of French and Italian.
|Landy, Joshua, 1965-
|Landy, Joshua, 1965-
|Statement of responsibility
|Submitted to the Department of French and Italian.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2016.
- © 2016 by Michaela Hulstyn
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