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In this postmodern world where the very foundations of traditional moral practices are called into question, Hearing Voices explores the issue of ethics by looking at the processes through which we define ourselves as individuals and the effects these choices have on our relations with others. John Lutterbie uses five plays from the canon of modern drama to elucidate the notion that the values we adopt in defining ourselves—and in particular, the values that men adopt in defining themselves—are the effects of "habits of consciousness," positive practices that encourage a subject to inhabit a particular place in the world. If we retreat from the desire to interpret, says Lutterbie, we can open a space in which we can hear the voices of others.
Advancing Foucault's theoretical argument that defines an ethics of self based on the belief that caring for another is the same as caring for the self, Lutterbie critically reviews plays by male writers Eric Begosian, Jean Genet, Sam Shepard, Samuel Beckett, and Heiner Müller to identify practices through which we individuate ourselves, those acts that reinforce systems of pleasure and give us joy and confidence in our perception of ourselves. Turning then to a wide range of theorists, including Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Irigaray, Judith Butler, Jessica Benjamin, and Herbert Blau, Lutterbie develops an ethical theory based on the creation of new habits of consciousness through the recognition of new pleasures, or an ethics based on pleasure rather than repression.
John Lutterbie joins a growing number of scholars currently working in this lively area of investigation, building on the extensive body of feminist theater scholarship that has appeared in the past decade to pose new questions about the complex and sophisticated interrelationships of ethics, subjectivity, and performativity, and to challenge our common held beliefs that our relationships with others are inherently negative.