Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Dr. Sharon Sliwinski


Abstract: Our aim with this project is to re-animate shame, to argue that there are in fact two kinds of shame experience. The first, primary shame, refers to the exposure of the self by the primordial other, a moment prior to the interpolation of judgment and morality in which the self apprehends its object state before the other, fixed within its gaze. Primary shame is the revelation that I am insofar as the other sees me. Secondary shame, on the other hand, is the mobilization within the pale of society of this originary exhibition of self. Secondary shame is a social tool for the moralization, regulation, and standardization of citizens; it is an invidious derivative of the primary pronouncement of the affect. We have endeavored to give a phenomenological account of shame that frees it from the ideology of a strictly moral and moralizing teleology, one that opens shame to questions concerning animality, community, and ontology. Can non-human animals experience primary shame? Can we speak meaningfully about communities of shame? Is shame an irrevocable and constitutive aspect of all being-in-the-world? These are the essential concerns of this project. But perhaps, more basically, this project is an attempt to reflect upon, to re-cast and re-invigorate the significance of the role played by others upon the being of the self, to expose a veiled truth: that the being of each resonates with the being of all.