One could say that The Ruins of Solitude: Maternity at the Limits of Academic Discourse is a book on auto-theory, except that the self – the author and authority in this book – is precisely what meets its ruin. In this book-length essay, Bragg interrogates the limits of autonomous thought and subjectivity when one’s own skin is claimed by another. How do we conceive hospitality when one’s own body cannot be whole, since it is no longer alone, and instead falls at the presence of the infant who has unraveled selfhood and puts into question our pretenses of autonomy and independence? With poetic prose in the ebb and flow of its sentences, The Ruins of Solitude engages Jacques Derrida, Donna Haraway, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Judith Butler, and others in an exploration of motherhood from the phenomenological perspective of the thinking body. Bragg’s essay is a call to theory rooted in the threshold between self and other, the space of care, where solitude is no more.

~ Margarita Saona, author of The Ghost of You

The Ruins of Solitude

While we conventionally define solitude as the absence of relation, The Ruins of Solitude takes up solitude as a rubric of legible subjectivity that regulates what it means to interact with and make meaning within a material world. Working to imagine an alternative to solitude, the book considers how this mode of embodiment intersects with knowledge production, exploring ways of being and knowing in the academy that refuse to perform or reproduce solitude. The book thus enacts a philosophy of bodies beyond solitude, undergoing an intimacy of bodies, love, and writing such that solitude fractures.

Through line breaks, exhaustion, interruption, and repetition, The Ruins of Solitude acknowledges and draws from a poeticity of selfhood and authorship uncontained by the tangible time of the present. A phenomenological account of the intense intimacy possible of skin-to-skin contact that ruptures solitudinous paradigms of knowing and being, The Ruins of Solitude unravels familiar narratives of childcare, considering the parallels between poststructuralist theory and the embodied materiality of relation.