Essays in French Literature, Thought and Visual Culture
Jenny Chamarette and Jennifer Higgins Introduction 1
Jenny Chamarette and Jennifer Higgins Introduction To be ashamed of your immorality: that is a step on the stairway that ultimately leads you to be ashamed of your morality as well.1 The ethical, ontological and genealogical questions raised by guilt and shame, for Nietzsche, seem as pressing now as they have ever been. At a time in our contemporary culture when exposure to, and consideration of, personal and collective guilt on the one hand, and social, bodily or mediated (or indeed mediatised) shame on the other, are constants of our everyday experience, these issues continue to haunt our moral and ethical lives. In her recent volume, From Guilt to Shame: Auschwitz and After, Ruth Leys engages with key debates in recent shame and trauma theory, to make a compelling case for the continued importance of these issues in our twenty-first-century lives. In her discussions of trauma and torture, she points out how guilt and shame, powerful twin mechanisms of subjectivity, have become inextricably linked to the socio-political dynamics of power. In the context of a media-saturated society where the camera is not only a tool of illumination but also an infinitely extended tool of public humilia- tion, Leys remarks upon the revelations of torture at the Abu Ghraib prison as a dark marker of our contemporary perceptions of guilt and of shame. She paraphrases Mark Danner when she writes, ‘As a “shame multiplier” 1 Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future, ed. Rolf-Peter Horstmann...
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