Presenting the Self
Given the Socratic dictum to "know thyself," how is one to proceed in tracking down this object of knowledge, which, interestingly enough, is one's own "subjectivity"? Our own intuitively obvious self-consciousness may turn out to be more complicated than first imagined when we investigate, for instance, its origins, or its place relative to those entities surrounding it both internally and externally.
Among the objectives in this class will be to question the very writing of the self across diverse texts and theoretical viewpoints; can presence be enacted through language? Does speech imply an uncomplicated speaker? What happens when one says "I"? From where does the idea come ever to start using that locution in the first place?
While studying the question of the self we will also be learning how to discriminate between sources of information and how to read and write comparatively, formulating arguments based on more than one text. We will take a brief analytical look at various argumentative strategies as well as cull the readings themselves for evidence of and training in these.
As with any complex subject, picking our way through relevant material will be challenging. Some of the required readings will be quite difficult, and you will no doubt encounter dense prose in your research. You will also be asked to write several papers dealing with two or more of these texts at a time; this will culminate in a final lengthy research paper on a topic of your own choosing, within the general framework of the question of the self.
Beckett, Nohow On: Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho: Three Novels
Descartes, Meditations on the First Philosophy
Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction
Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego
Williams, Style: Ten Lessons on Clarity and Grace
A Reader containing shorter readings from: