The Practice of Attention: Simone Weil's Performance of Impersonality

Sharon Cameron

in Impersonality

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2007 | ISBN: 9780226091310
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226091334 | DOI:
The Practice of Attention: Simone Weil's Performance of Impersonality

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Headaches are a persistent subject in Simone Weil's spiritual autobiography. This chapter examines the phenomenon of attention—in her spiritual autobiography Weil identified its discovery with the overcoming of a despair so severe that it led her to contemplate suicide—in order to inquire how it became a discipline for forfeiting personality and consequently came to be associated with the affliction and violence requisite for such a renunciation. It considers how an ostensibly neutral phenomenon like attention could require violence, and how we might understand someone who attempted to separate personality from being—that is, with how we might value someone who herself valued impersonality at such tremendous cost. The chapter also looks at Weil's assertions beyond the pathology of self-hatred or cruelty. Moreover, it analyzes the frictive relations within Weil's writing on self-annihilation—she called it “de-creation”—as well as the relation between Weil's didactic imperatives for the achievement of that state and her representation of a person who lived such a reduced life.

Keywords: Simone Weil; headaches; attention; impersonality; despair; violence; self-annihilation; de-creation; self-hatred; cruelty

Chapter.  16042 words. 

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies

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