The Subject of Freedom: Kant, Levinas. New York: Fordham University Press, 2015.
Is freedom our most essential belonging, the intimate source of self-mastery, an inalienable right? Or is it something foreign, an other that constitutes subjectivity, a challenge to our notion of autonomy? To Basterra, the subjectivity we call free embodies a relationship with an irreducible otherness that at once exceeds it and animates its core. Tracing Kant’s concept of freedom from the Critique of Pure Reason to his practical works, Basterra elaborates his most revolutionary insights by setting them in dialogue with Levinas’s Otherwise than Being. Levinas’s text, she argues, offers a deep critique of Kant that follows the impulse of his thinking to its most promising consequences. The complex concepts of freedom, autonomy, and subjectivity that emerge from this dialogue have the potential to energize today’s ethical and political thinking.
"Basterra's The Subject of Freedom is a beautifully written and ambitious text that probes the implicit ways that what is unconditioned drives the ethical philosophies of both Kant and Levinas. She thinks these two philosophers with and against one another, finding that the point of contact is a point of excess. Her work moves deftly between a reconstruction of their arguments through precise textual analysis and an imaginative juxtaposition that shows that they are each responding to a demand that is radically exterior to their own subjective perspective. This is a brilliant and novel text that allows us to think the philosopher of reason together with the philosopher of relationality and to consider the ethical and political implications of their encounter. This belated and vital encounter is, indeed, a rich one."
—Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley
“In this important book, Gabriela Basterra reconceives Kant’s conception of practical freedom. On her interpretation, consciousness of the moral law doesn’t simply disclose the subject’s freedom. On a more fundamental level, it constitutes it. Taking Kant at his word when he represents the categorical imperative as a ‘fact of reason,’ Basterra argues that the demand for rational autonomy is a special type of heteronomy. Responsibility turns out to be less a matter of normative bootstrapping than of “substitution” in Levinas’s sense of finding oneself obliged by another. This fascinating interpretation completely changes our conception of what it means, for Kant, to orient oneself in the world.”
— Andrew Cutrofello, Department of Philosophy, Loyola University, Chicago
Seductions of Fate: Tragic Subjectivity, Ethics, Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Engaging with a wide variety of literary, philosophical and psychoanalytic texts (from Aeschylus to Racine and Lorca, from Aristotle to Kant, from Hegel and Freud to Lacan and Levinas), Seductions of Fate argues that tragedy shapes our subjectivity. We, modern subjects, constitute ourselves on new versions of destiny, such as “power,” the law or the past. Though this tragic self-representation seems to contradict modern rationality, it allows the self to protect its freedom from the ethical experience that would put it into question. Autonomy and freedom are thus enabled by the very victimization they claim to overcome. Hence the paradox of our tragic subjectivity: we represent ourselves as victims in order to preserve our autonomy. What is it we fear so much as to prefer to become tragic subjects? What is it we evade by resorting to tragic death? It is daring to decide what our duty is beyond legitimizing social rules. It is acting without guarantee, expanding the political beyond institutions and laws. When facing this terrifying emptiness, this endless responsibility, the death that reaffirms our position in the social symbolic order comes as a relief. This radical ethical experience-which is here traced in Kant's ethics, Lacan's psychoanalysis and Levinas's ethical subjectivity-constitutes the subject as other than itself. Focusing primarily on this gap within the self, which compels the self to act on an unconditional but impossible address, this book opens a new perspective on the rapport between ethics and politics.
“Basterra's thesis - that tragedy structures modern subjectivity - is amply and originally demonstrated here. The range of texts she brings to the fore is unprecedented in its cultural breadth and illuminating force. Written with erudition in both philosophy and literature, this book is impressive, moving, serious, passionate and important.”
— Judith Butler, Department of Rhetoric and Department of Comparative Literature, University of California, USA
“In an exploration of an exceptional intellectual rigour and intertextual complexity Gabriela Basterra draws, in this book, a most insightful and fascinating picture of the tragic destiny of modern subjectivity. There can be little doubt that Seductions of Fate will be seen as one of the great theoretical interventions of the last ten years.”
— Ernesto Laclau, Department of Government, University of Essex, UK
Quel sujet du politique? (ed. with Rada Ivekovic and Boyan Manchev). Rue Descartes 67, 2010.
Shaping the Void: Vessels, Concepts, Poems (in progress)
“Unconditioned Subjectivity: Immanent Synthesis in Kant’s Third Antinomy.” Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 29.3 (2015).
“Reason’s Other in Quotation Marks: Nietzsche on Tragedy and Doubling.” Philosophy & Social Criticism 39.9 (2013), 907-919.
“Subjectivity at the Limit. Velázquez, Kant, Levinas.” diacritics 40.4 (2012), 46-70.
“Auto-Heteronomy or Levinas’ Philosophy of the Same.” Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 31.1 (2010), 109-132.
“Subjectivité inouïe”. Quel sujet du politique? Rue Descartes 67, 2010, 26-31.
“Does Creativity Deny Itself?” Qui Parle 17.2 (Spring/Summer 2009), 59-83.
“Choreography of Fate: Lorca’s Reconfigurations of the Tragic.” In John Burt Foster and Wayne J. Froman (eds), Dramas of Culture. Theory, History, Performance. Plymouth, UK and New York, Lexington Books, 2008, 135-47.
“Activité au-delà de toute activité (autour de Levinas).” In Danielle Cohen-Levinas and Bruno Clément (eds), Emmanuel Levinas. Les territoires de la pensée, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 2007, 323-38.
“Ethics, Perhaps.” In Erin Graff Zivin (ed), Reading Otherwise: The Ethics of Latin American Literary Criticism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007, pp. 25-41.
“Résister aux sirènes de l’impuissance (autour de Ricoeur).” L’homme capable. Autour de Paul Ricoeur. Rue Descartes, Hors série (2006), 47-58.
“El respeto como evasión.” Estudios: Revista de Investigaciones Literarias y Culturales 25 (2005), 489-503.
“I Love to Hate my Life or the Allure of Guilt.” Theory & Event 7.2 (2004).
'The Grammar of Fate in Lorca’s Bodas de sangre.’ Journal of Romance Studies 3.2 (2003), 49-68.