What might it mean to engage in an educative struggle with death? Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich helps us to answer that question. Tolstoy’s story depicts the life of a man who, when suddenly faced with the prospect of his own death, is at first unable to comprehend the reality of his situation. He is angry, fearful, and disgusted. As he gradually comes to terms with his mortality, he undergoes a harrowing process of transformation, at the heart of which lies the development of his capacity for attention. Drawing on ideas from the French philosopher and pedagogue Simone Weil, it is argued that Ivan’s experience is consistent with the passage from ‘gravity’, through the void of intense suffering, toward a state of grace.
Roberts, Peter. Education, “Attention and Transformation: Death and Decreation in Tolstoy and Weil.” Studies in Philosophy and Education (2021). Online: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-021-09775-8
in Sophie Bourgault & Julie Daigle, eds., Simone Weil, Beyond Ideology?, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 83-102
This thesis posits that however separated T.S. Eliot and Simone Weil are by circumstance, political affinity, and Church affiliation, their thoughts intersect at a crucial point. While Weil’s theory of decreation and Eliot’s notion of impersonality are often cast as theological and poetic innovations, they both hearken back to the Christian mystical tradition – specifically, the aspect of via negativa. Placed alongside one another, Weil’s poetic mysticism and Eliot’s concern for the spiritual reveal the capacity of poems to decreate and bring the reader to a moment of void that awaits the fulfillment of grace. This thesis will study these topics with express consideration of Eliot’s Four Quartets and Weil’s notebooks, especially Gravity and Grace.
Honor’s Thesis, Department of English, Stanford University, May 2019.
In Simone Weil’s philosophical and literary work, obligation emerges at the conjuncture of competing claims: the other’s self-affirmation and one’s own dislocation; what one has and what one has to give; a demand that asks for too much and the extraordinary demand implied by asking nothing. The other’s claims upon the self―which induce unfinished obligation, unmet sleep, hunger―drive the tensions that sustain the scene of ethical relationality at the heart of this book.
Decreation and the Ethical Bind is a study in decreative ethics in which self-dispossession conditions responsiveness to a demand to preserve the other from harm. In examining themes of obligation, vulnerability, and the force of weak speech that run from Levinas to Butler, the book situates Weil within a continental tradition of literary theory in which writing and speech articulate ethical appeal and the vexations of response. It elaborates a form of ethics that is not grounded in subjective agency and narrative coherence but one that is inscribed at the site of the self’s depersonalization.
New York: Fordham University Press, 2020
Yoon Sook Cha received her Ph.D. in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley.
Abstract: In her “Letter to a Priest,” Simone Weil makes the following, typically bold, assertion concerning belief in the Resurrection: “Hitler could die and return to life again fifty times, but I should still not look upon him as the Son of God. And if the gospel omitted all mention of Christ’s Resurrection, faith would be easier for me. The Cross by itself suffices me.”1 This statement has often served as an indication that Weil’s version of Christian mysticism has no place for the Resurrection. Throughout the collection of short essays, articles, and notebooks produced at the end of her life Weil reflects frequently, in profound and intriguing ways, on the significance of death, its effect on human thought, and its place in moral and spiritual life. Not only is death “the source of all untruth and of all truth for men,”2 the crucifixion of Christ becomes the center not only of her spirituality but also of her metaphysics; creation, for Weil, is the cross that crucifies God.3 In some of the more extreme formulations scattered through the notebooks, in particular, Weil gives that impression that she sees life as a cosmic mistake that it is the task of spiritual life to rectify, through acceptance of death: “Birth involves us in the original sin, death redeems us from it.”4 Death is the humiliating destiny of all finite creatures, but if one can refuse the various compulsive ways there are of evading the thought of this, and consent to, or even love this necessity, one thereby participates in the process of “decreation,” the eradication of the autonomous self.
Stuart Jesson, “Traces of Resurrection: The Pattern of Simone Weil’s Mysticism,” in T. Cattoi T. & C.M. Moreman, eds, Death, Dying, and Mysticism. Interdisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Mysticism, New York: Palgrave Macmillan (2015), pp. 49-64.
Epoché: The University of California Journal for the Study of Religion, Vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 59-85.
in Dunaway, John M. & Springsted, Eric. O., The Beauty that Saves: Essays on Aesthetics and Language in Simone Weil, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, pp. 151-171