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The Call of Character: Living a Life Worth Living
Mari Ruti
Columbia University Press / Hardcover / 2013-11-01 / 0231164084
reg price: $35.00 our price: $ 31.50 (may be subject to change)
208 pages
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Should we feel inadequate for failing to be healthy, balanced, and well-adjusted? Is such an existential equilibrium realistic or even desirable? Condemning our cultural obsession with cheerfulness and “positive thinking,” Mari Ruti calls for a resurrection of character that honors our more eccentric frequencies, arguing that sometimes the most tormented and anxiety-ridden life can also be the most rewarding.

Ruti critiques our current search for personal meaning and the pragmatic attempt to normalize human beings’ unruly and idiosyncratic natures. Exposing the tragic banality of a happy life commonly lived, she instead emphasizes the advantages of a lopsided life rich in passion and fortitude. Ruti shows what counts is not our ability to evade existential uncertainty but to meet adversity in such a way that we do not become irrevocably broken. We are in danger of losing the capacity to cope with complexity, ambiguity, melancholia, disorientation, and disappointment, leaving us feeling less “real,” less connected, and unable to metabolize a full range of emotions. Heeding the call of our character may mean acknowledging the marginalized, chaotic aspects of our being, for they carry a great deal of creative energy. Ruti shows it is precisely this energy that makes us inimitable and irreplaceable.


"This book engages questions of perennial interest to philosophers, theorists, and all individuals, and Mari Ruti is perhaps uniquely qualified to write it. Ruti has an uncanny ability to translate complex theoretical issues into clear and readable – but not the least bit dumbed-down – prose. Her treatment of the timeless question (what makes for a good life?) is both original and insightful. I wholeheartedly recommend this book." — Amy Allen, Dartmouth College

"The Call of Character presents notions of the subject of character drawn from the most sophisticated psychoanalytic and critical theories in language that actively welcomes a non-academic readership. This book will contribute powerfully to discussions of the self from a position that is both inside and outside the critical psychoanalytic discourse." — Gail Newman, Williams College

"The Call of Character is another outstanding Ruti book—expansively erudite yet plain-spoken, honest with a dazzling self-consciousness that situates itself historically in our present sociocultural moment. In this work, Ruti’s singular voice gives words to those necessary though often disavowed tensions of human life, rendering the inaccessible accessible. The prose reads like an existential page-turner that you must compel yourself to slow down and savor in its lucid relevance. I have already used insights from this book in my work with patients, to whom I have directly recommended Ruti’s works before. She helps us to understand our private impediments that inherently obscure our relation to our own desires. The Call of Character should be read by academics, clinicians, and students, but most importantly those who want to live with authentic vitality in a world that makes it seem difficult to do so—namely, all of us." — Joseph S. Reynoso, Ph.D., Book Review Editor, Psychoanalytic Psychology

"What makes a life worth living? Our failure to find a definitive answer to that age-old question is the focus of Mari Ruti’s fabulous new book. Ruti revels in the unanswerable mystery of the call of character—that aspect of ourselves that makes each of us unique, passionate, but also perpetually dissatisfied and longing for more. In Ruti’s hands, dissatisfaction at our incompleteness becomes not a reason for despair but a source of fascination and political possibility: a summons to pursue an erotics of being in the most mundane aspects of our everyday lives." — Lynne Huffer, Emory University




Part I. The Art of Self-Fashioning

1. The Call of Character

2. The Process of Becoming

3. The Specificity of Desire

Part II. The Art of Self-Responsibility

4. The Blueprints of Behavior

5. The Alchemy of Relationality

6. The Ethics of Responsibility

Part III. The Art of Self-Surrender

7. The Swerve of Passion

8. The Upside of Anxiety

9. The Erotics of Being



About the Author:

Mari Ruti was educated at Brown University and Harvard University and is professor of critical theory at the University of Toronto. She is also the author of Reinventing the Soul: Posthumanist Theory and Psychic Life, A World of Fragile Thing: Psychoanalysis and the Art of Living, The Summons of Love, and The Singularity of Being: Lacan and the Immortal Within.

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