‘Master, Slave and Merciless Struggle’

Sin and Lovelessness in Sartre's Saint Genet

in Sartre Studies International
Kate Kirkpatrick King's College London kate.kirkpatrick@kcl.ac.uk

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In his biography of Jean Genet, Sartre says his aim is ‘to demonstrate that freedom alone can account for a person in his totality’. Building on my reading of Being and Nothingness in Sartre on Sin, I examine the compatibility of Sartrean freedom and love in Saint Genet. Sartre's account of Genet's person is largely a loveless one in which there is no reciprocity, others are ‘empty shells’ and love is ‘only the lofty name which [Genet] gives to onanism’. I use Saint Genet to suggest Genet's lovelessness is the direct result of locating the totality of personhood in freedom. This location results in a lonely experience of subjectivity as ‘master, slave and merciless struggle’ – never lover or beloved, whether on the divine plane or the human.

Contributor Notes

Kate Kirkpatrick is Lecturer in Religion, Philosophy and Culture at King's College London. She is the author of Sartre on Sin (Oxford University Press, 2017), Sartre and Theology (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Mystical Sources of Existentialist Thought (with George Pattison, Routledge, 2019) and a biography of Simone de Beauvoir, Becoming Beauvoir: A Life (Bloomsbury, 2019). She is Treasurer of the UK Sartre Society and Managing Editor of the journal Simone de Beauvoir Studies. Email: kate.kirkpatrick@kcl.ac.uk

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Sartre Studies International

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Existentialism and Contemporary Culture


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