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Art, Wisdom, Madness: "lost in the shadows of man"

Lecturer: Jon Rubin

Originally Taught: Summer School 2016

Over the last thirty-five years, since the publication of Greenblatt's Renaissance Self-Fashioning (1980) and Hadot's Exercices spirituels et philosophie antique (1981) and Foucault's own work on Ancient Greek technologies of the self, there has been an explosion of studies on the various ways we can take 'care of the self'. This work has looked past the Greeks and the sixteenth century to find or reread many other periods interested in these techniques.

The wisdom of the philosopher-sage is only one corner of an impossible triangle. Alongside the Stoic sage, however, there has always been another figure, that of "Socrates gone mad" in the case of Diogenes, of Rousseau gone mad in the case of de Sade and of the madness of the world in the case of Artaud. In these cases we find not the Stoic attempt to quiet the mind and a withdrawal from the world, but an attempt to intensify one's body and a constant irritation with and for the world; not a care of the self but a discomposure or dissolution of the self. On the final apex we find literary engagements (sometimes satirical, sometimes part of an aesthetico-philosophical negotiation) that offer another view (neither a mediation nor a meditation) and another posture.

This course will start by outlining the differences, antagonisms and alliances between these three corners: the philosophical care of the self, literary self-fashioning and the anti-philosophical dissolution of the self. The course will then examine three moments from the perspective of each of these three corners. The first moment encompasses 1) Socrates, his attempt to educate Alcibades and his Apology; 2) the life of Diogenes; 3) Aristophenes' The Clouds, not just a brutal satire of sophistry but also an intervention in to the proper means and ends of education as a technology of the self.

The second moment encompasses 1) Spinoza's Emmendation of the Intellect; 2) Resoration libertinage – both male and female; 3) de Sade's Juliette.

The final moment will consider 1) Artaud's 'Nerve Meter' and 'Fragments of a Diary from Hell'; 2) series 18-22 of Deleuze's Logic of Sense; 3) Foucault on the care of the self and the cynics.

Course Schedule

Each two hour session will be divided in to two, one hour lectures.

Session One

  • part one Introduction to 'care of the self' and 'self-fashioning'
  • part two Socrates, his attempt to educate Alcibades and his Apology

Session Two

  • part one Diogenes the Cynic
  • part two Aristophenes' The Clouds

Session Three

  • part one Spinoza's Emmendation of the Intellect
  • part two Resoration libertinage

Session Four

  • part one de Sade's Juliette
  • part two series 18-22 of Deleuze's Logic of Sense

Session Five

  • part one Foucault on the care of the self and the cynics
  • part two Artaud's 'Nerve Meter' and 'Fragments of a Diary from Hell'


Artaud, Antonin. 1988. Antonin Artaud : Selected Writings. Edited by Susan Sontag. Translated by Helen Weaver. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Chua, Brandon, and Justin Clemens. 2013. 'Rochester's Libertine Poetry as Philosophical Education'. In The Discourse of Sensibility, edited by Henry Martyn Lloyd, 35:43–61. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Deleuze, Gilles. 1990. The Logic of Sense. Edited by Constantin V. Boundas. Translated by Mark Lester and Charles J Stivale. London: Athlone.

Euben, J. Peter. 1997. Corrupting Youth: Political Education, Democratic Culture, and Political Theory. Princeton University Press.

Foucault, Michel. 2001. Fearless Speech. Edited by Joseph. Pearson. Los Angeles, Ca.: MIT Press.

———. 2012. The Courage of Truth : The Government of Self and Others. Translated by Arnold I. Davidson. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Greenblatt, Stephen. 1980. Renaissance Self-Fashioning : From More to Shakespeare. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hadot, Pierre. 1995. Philosophy as a Way of Life : Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault. Edited by Arnold Ira Davidson. Translated by Michael Chase. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Havelock, Eric A. 1972. 'The Socratic Self as It Is Parodied in Aristophanes' Clouds'. Yale Classical Studies 22 (1972): 1–18.

Lamb, Matthew. 2011. 'Philosophy as a Way of Life: Albert Camus and Pierre Hadot'. Sophia 50 (4): 561–76. doi:10.1007/s11841-011-0276-y.

Linker, Laura. 2011. Dangerous Women, Libertine Epicures, and the Rise of Sensibility, 1670-1730. British Literature in Context in the Long Eighteenth Century. Farnham ; Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

———. 2013. Lucretian Thought in Late Stuart England: Debates about the Nature of the Soul. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Nehamas, Alexander. 1998. The Art of Living : Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault. Sather Classical Lectures ; v. 61. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Nussbaum, Martha Craven. 1994. The Therapy of Desire : Theory and Practice in Hellenistic Ethics. Martin Classical Lectures ; New Ser., v. 2. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Sellars, John. 2003. The Art of Living the Stoics on the Nature and Function of Philosophy. Aldershot: Ashgate.