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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 26, Issue 2, Spring 2022

Andrew BurnsideOrcid-ID
Pages 309-323

Inexhaustibility: St. John of the Cross and Barthes’s Author Function

St. John of the Cross was aware of the fact that his mysticism resisted prosaic, discursive representation; however, most contemporary scholars have overlooked this radical component of his work. First, I trace the major philosophical influences on John’s work: Medieval Neoplatonism and Scholasticism (especially Pseudo-Dionysius and St. Thomas Aquinas, as well as Ibn Arabi and possibly Averroes). Second, by drawing on the Barthesian-Foucauldian concept of the author function, I demonstrate that the Mystical Doctor saw his poetry as free-standing, inexhaustible by even his own efforts to systematize key aspects of his poetry—an insurmountable task, which he had to be compelled to compile and publish by the nuns he guided in spiritual direction.