To Be More Fully Alive: John of the Cross and Judith Butler on Transformation of the Self

Doctoral Dissertation


My dissertation develops a theory for intrapersonal praxis that enables solidarity, justice, and peace in the face of alienation, oppression, and violence. It contributes to two schools of thought, mystical-political theology, as represented by Johann Baptist Metz, and conflict transformation, as represented by John Paul Lederach. I combine the resources of a religious classic and a contemporary critical theory of subject formation to address identity-based impasse. Namely, I employ the spiritual guidance and mystical anthropology of John of the Cross and the ethics and philosophical anthropology of Judith Butler. Drawing from John, I describe transformation of the self in terms of virtue, vice, and practices of attentive receptivity. Drawing from Butler, I describe transformation in terms of socio-political power, psychic processes, and practices of critical inquiry. In addition, I employ the affect theory of psychologist and philosopher Silvan Tomkins to describe the formation and transformation of patterns of thought, emotion, and behavior. With these elements, I develop an ecosystemic working theory of the transforming self.

With this theory about the transforming self, I argue for a set of dispositions and practices that can foster positive transformation in and through ambivalent socio-material ecosystems. Specifically, I argue for intrapersonal praxis that develops relational sensibility, defined as the capacity to experience, perceive, understand, and participate in the dynamic complexity of living. I use ‘sensibility’ holistically, connoting responsiveness to stimuli through the physiological senses, affective reactions, and mental perceptions. Relational sensibility addresses two critiques of modernity articulated by philosophers Stephen Toulmin and Charles Taylor: the truncation of the human person and the systematization of human life. Increasing sensibility can enable a second form of intrapersonal praxis that I call re-scripting. ‘Re-scripting’ combines insights from Tomkins’ theory about personal patterns and Butler’s theory about social norms to offer an understanding of intentional transformation of the self as activity at the nexus of the personal and the social. Since impasse is characterized by the exhaustion of readily available means, if there is to be movement through impasse, something new must happen. My theory for praxis articulates how this might occur at the level of the self.


Attribute NameValues
Author Heather M. DuBois
Contributor Atalia Omer, Committee Member
Contributor J. Matthew Ashley, Research Director
Contributor M. Catherine Hilkert, Committee Member
Contributor R. Scott Appleby, Committee Member
Contributor Keith J. Egan, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Peace Studies
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name Doctor of Philosophy
Banner Code

Defense Date
  • 2018-05-15

Submission Date 2018-06-12
  • intrapersonal

  • mystical-political

  • John of the Cross

  • Judith Butler

  • conflict transformation

  • transformation of the self

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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