Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2009

Capstone Advisor

M. Gail Hamner

Honors Reader

Robert Gates

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories


Subject Categories

Other Religion | Religion


This project explores the nature of the self’s relationship to language, particularly creative linguistic expression, and aims to illustrate the ways in which creative linguistic expression or, in other words, poetic expression, can be spiritually beneficial to the speaker, writer, reader, or listener. Of course, this could mean a variety of things. In this project, I take it to mean that poetic expression has the potential to subvert ego discourse (expression that only serves to create, reinforce, and protect the ego or self-identity).

First, in the introduction, I use Gilles Deleuze’s text, Bergsonism, along with a quotation by Paul Celan from one his speeches, to describe, in terms of both language and consciousness, what actually occurs during the creative process. Deleuze’s usages of the terms real, possible, virtual, and actual are helpful for understanding what Celan means when he talks about “actualized language, set free under the sign of a radical individuation.” I explore briefly the relationship between such ‘actualized language’ and our position as human beings, as creatures.

Then, I look at the notions of self and ego from the perspective of two quite different traditions, one that is more scientifically oriented, which is psychoanalysis, and one that is more spiritually-oriented, which is Tibetan Buddhism. For the psychoanalytic discussion of ego I turn primarily to Jacques Lacan and one of his foremost interpreters, Bruce Fink; I also employ some of Sigmund Freud’s writings, but in a more supplementary fashion. For the discussion of the Buddhist conception of ego, I turn to a Tibetan-American lineage-holder in the Kagyu tradition, Chögyam Trungpa, as well as a number of primary Buddhist texts translated into English from the original Sanskrit and employed by a number of different traditions, including the Tibetan tradition followed by Trungpa. Because Buddhism has so many different facets and sects, I wanted to remain consistent in my approach while still incorporating some of the most fundamental Buddhist texts.

In the final section, I use various poems—some originals, some written by the likes of Celan and Rilke—to illustrate the concepts laid out in the rest of the paper. I talk about meditation through language, dereification (the process of reversing reification), and the Buddhist idea of Suchness. I also offer an extensive discussion about what I call “linguistic space,” or the space both in and around every word that it allows it to function as more than mere signifier. To put it another way, because of this linguistic space, words do not exist in a mere one-to-one ratio with meaning. If speaker and listener, writer and reader all acknowledge and celebrate this space, they can potentially liberate themselves from the compulsive, overly-literal, and rationalistic relationship with language common today.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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