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

Heythrop Journal 55 (2):188-202 (2014)

Cynthia R. Nielsen
University of Dallas
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.
Keywords technologies of the self  death of the subject  Christian confessional technologies  Foucault and self-writing  exomologēsis  hupomnēmata
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-2265.2011.00694.x
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