Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Middle Ages to the Present

Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Middle Ages to the Present

Roy Porter

Language: English

Pages: 283

ISBN: 0415142806

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Rewriting the Self is an exploration of ideas of the self in the western cultural tradition from the Renaissance to the Present. The contributors analyse differing religious, philosophical, psychological, political, psychoanalytical and literary models of personal identity. They examine these models from a number of viewpoints, including the history of ideas, contemporary gender politics, and post-modernist literary theory.
Rewriting the Self offers a challenge to the received version of the 'ascent of western man'. Lively and controversial, the book broaches big questions in an accessible way.
Rewriting the Self arises from a seminar series held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The contributors include prominent academics from a range of disciplines.



















patrician Girolamo da Sommaia, narrating his sexual exploits to himself, recording them for safety’s sake in the Greek alphabet, and describing his ‘sweetness with Francisca’ (dolcetudine con Francisco), ‘sweetness of Isabella without paying’ (Dolcetudine di Isabella senza soldo) and so forth. Today it may seem odd or even contradictory that the biography or autobiography of the unique individual should follow a pattern, but for readers and writers of the Renaissance, who were taught to model

discipline for the soul’s steady contemplation of its proper ends. The parish minister at Coggeshall in Essex, Ralph Josselin, kept a diary through the difficult years of the reign of Charles I. There, amidst the seemingly endless round of his wife’s confinements and in the confusion of his family’s and his own ailments, he worried about the meaning of daily events for the salvation of his soul. The diary recorded external 55 ROGER SMITH events and, more significantly, struggled to make a

political theorists, was now high on all European political agendas. Moreover, the small city-state typical of the ancient world had clearly ceased to be the prime political unit and with it went, or so it was argued, the practical relevance of the ideals of republicanism and civic virtue held up as a model to humanity most notably by the Renaissance humanists. The martial spirit seemed to be on the wane. Self-denial in the face of the requirements of the polis was no longer the prevailing ethos,

laugh. 118 8 FEELINGS AND NOVELS John Mullan Do feelings vary between different times, or different cultures? How are feelings learned? Would it be possible to write a history of the development of feelings, or have they always had some basic vocabulary which does not change? Such questions occur when one reads something like the following letter, written to the novelist Samuel Richardson by one of his regular correspondents, Lady Dorothy Bradshaigh. Lady Bradshaigh had already read, several

Adrienne. Touching lightly on each of three modes of Romantic travel—on foot, on horseback, by coach—Sylvie repeatedly measures the same poignant distance between actuality and desire. The tale’s wistful message is endemic to Romanticism: there is no constancy between thought and its external objects, and all desires are chimerical. As the author ruefully concedes, ‘illusions drop away one after the other, like the skin off a fruit, and that fruit we call experience’. A phenomenon so widespread

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