May 25, 2024

Sahar Jamshideyan

Academic rank: Assistant Professor
Education: M.Sc in علوم انسانی
Faculty: Literature and Human Sciences


Title “Am I really… merely… a conscious little rock?” Ethical Education in Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons
Type Article
Tom Wolfe, I Am Charlotte Simmons, ethical education, Emmanuel Levinas, Pedagogy of Becoming, autonomy and heteronomy, neuroscience, free will
Journal Humanities Diliman: A Philippine Journal of Humanities
Researchers Sahar Jamshideyan


Time and again Tom Wolfe has been criticized for holding conservative attitudes. Wolfe’s third novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, published in 2004, has been considered by many critics as obvious evidence of his antipathy to political correctness, sexual liberty, and the American liberal education system in general. The few sympathetic critics who share Wolfe’s anxiety over the life of young Americans at colleges assume that neuroscience—with its emphasis on the materiality of the mind and, consequently, the rejection of free will—has been partly responsible for the creation of conformist young people. In this article, however, we suggest that Wolfe’s anxiety is not so much about neuroscience than the way it is taught at colleges and received by the public. We also show that Wolfe’s criticism of liberal education rests mainly on the claim that it fails to cultivate autonomous, selfconscious students capable of critical thinking and instead fosters an egoistic, self-centered freedom which negates the Other. Here, it seems that Emmanuel Levinas’s “Pedagogy of Becoming,” based on his ethics of alterity, is most relevant to the idea of the desire for improving the education system.