THE STORY I TELL MYSELF: A Venture in Existentialist Autobiography by Hazel E. Barnes

THE STORY I TELL MYSELF: A Venture in Existentialist Autobiography

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The translation of Sartre's Being and Nothingness into English in 1955 was the first and perhaps most notable achievement of Barnes's long and scholarly career, on which she reflects in this autobiography. In tracing her career, she provides critical insight into the evolution of her own embrace of existentialism, the acceptance of challenge as the fertile ground of individual choice, as well as ""the experience of women who chose to pursue careers in the period between Virginia Woolf and Betty Friedan."" Barnes traces her early fundamentalist Christian background and the way in which it naturally led to her interest in philosophy and ethics. This existentialist autobiography expresses her life as the natural outcome of an ongoing involvement with a philosophy that spoke not only to contemporary issues (racism, existential feminism, the right to die) but also to her own need to decry cynicism, to designate ""a legitimate goal for ethics,"" to exalt in what Sartre saw as the right to difference as one of the ingredients of commonality. Barnes describes poignantly the important intellectual trends that have captivated academia over the last four decades. With acrobatic flexibility, she expounds on Sartre and de Beauvoir, on deconstruction, on teaching as a career, and on life in Boulder, Colo. Her views of today's students are insightful, and her humane reflections on relationships (gay and otherwise) and aging are soothing, considering how far into the storm of philosophical life she has gazed. Barnes challenged every aspect of the life expected of her. She never married and has had a single female companion for most of her adult life. She has lived intimately with the universal questions of our century without losing sight of the stuff of daily life. While often overly detailed and at times academic, her autobiography does provide an intimate record of our times and of the ongoing issues that challenge us to define ourselves over and over again.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0226037320
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago