Unearthing Consonances in Foucault's Account of Greco‐Roman Self‐writing and Christian Technologies of the Self

Heythrop Journal 55 (2):188-202 (2014)
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Foucault’s later writings continue his analyses of subject-formation but now with a view to foregrounding an active subject capable of self-transformation via ascetical and other self-imposed disciplinary practices. In my essay, I engage Foucault’s studies of ancient Greco-Roman and Christian technologies of the self with a two-fold purpose in view. First, I bring to the fore additional continuities either downplayed or overlooked by Foucault’s analysis between Greco-Roman transformative practices including self-writing, correspondence, and the hupomnemata and Christian ascetical and epistolary practices. Second, I add exegetical support to recent arguments denying Foucault’s advocacy for the death of the subject per se. In fact, my analyses show that Foucault’s ethico-aesthetic turn and its corresponding concern with self-transformation and self-(re)constitution via ascetical practices assumes a subject with rational and volitional capacities. Without these capacities, the art of living Foucault describes is not possible.

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Cynthia R. Nielsen
University of Dallas


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