The Aest/ethics of Imagination and Deceit in Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation: A Foucauldian-Aristotelian Reading

Unhae Langis


By examining the actions of Paul Poitier in John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation as an aesth/ethic subject, this essay explores the possibilities and challenges of integrating the aesthetic and ethical imperatives of self-formation within the limits of one’s historical and cultural situation. In Guarian terms linking art and life, how does one find the salutary balance between chaos and control: how does one give structure, or teleological purpose, to a life of random color? While the scholarship on Guare’s play readily includes discussions on race, class, and sexuality, notably lacking are rigorous ethical examinations that explore the play’s signature concerns of aesthetics and ethics embedded in the issues of race and economics. A discerning examination of Paul’s aesth/ethic pursuit within the framework of Foucauldian and Aristotelian ethics illuminates the play in unprecedented ways, at the same time offering valuable ethical insights into our own endeavors to live the good life.

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