ENGL 320 Nov 30 The History of I and Me. Main points of this presentation : Identity (selfhood, me ) is not constant or universal or transparent We recognize today that selfhood is constructed but past subjects may not have realized this
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Main points of this presentation:
An “I” or “me” is always subject to forces and effects both outside itself (environmental, social, cultural, economic, educational, etc.) and “within” itself. (Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle 2004).
These all have different implications for thinking about the self: e.g. the desiring self, the self defined by its other(s), national identification.
Late medieval identity: the carpenter’s square as a model for being in a proper relationship to God and one’s neighbor(Pilgrimage of the Lyfe of the Manhode, 33)
P = proximus (Latin for neighbor)
a = anima (soul)
x = Christus (Christ)
“I think, therefore I am” [or perhaps, more accurately, I am thinking, therefore I am being] (Discourse 4, p. 54).
The mind exists entirely independently of the body; the very act of doubting confirms both the existence of the “self” and the existence of God, on whom that imperfect, doubting self must depend.
It is “in and through language that man [sic] constitutes himself as a subject, because language alone establishes the concept of “ego” in reality, in its reality which is that of the being. …. Language is possible only because each speaker sets himself up as a subject by referring to himself as I in his discourse.” (Benveniste 1971, 224-225)
“ for I posits another person, the one who, being, as he [sic] is, completely exterior to ‘me,’ becomes my echo to whom I say you and who says you to me.” This reciprocal “echoing” allows the individual to emerge as a subject and produces the experience of consciousness of self. (225)
The I that writes is not the same as the “I” that is written (cf. Margery Kempe).
2 for . the subject of ideology: Marx, Althusser: the subject is constructed through its relationship to the dominant ideologies (in the US, individualism, freedom, consumer choice); the subject is unaware of being caught up in ideology, which feels like the “natural” state of things.
3. the “split subject”: the conscious self/the unconscious: Freud, Jacques Lacan.
Form/matter, soul/body/ male/female[not opposites but a hierarchy, with masculinity superior]
Aristotle (384-322 BC0, De generatione animalium [On the generation of animals]
The male provides the “form” and the “principle of movement,”, the female provides the body, in other words, the material. (Blamires 40)
St Thomas Aquinas (1225-74), Summa theologiae
In human generation, the mother provides the matter of the body which, however, is still unformed, and receives its form only by means of the power which is contained in the father’s seed. (Blamires 47)
The notion of an original or primary gender identity is often parodied within the cultural practices of drag, cross-dressing, and the sexual stylization of butch-femme identities. …This perpetual displacement constitutes a fluidity of identities that suggests an openness to resignification and recontexualization: parodic proliferation deprives hegemonic culture and its critics of the claim to naturalized or essentialist gender identities. (Butler 1990, 137-8)
John Donne, Holy Sonnet 14 for [for vivid sense of interiority and subject constructed through relationship with God]
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due, 5
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy; 10
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me. 14 (1633)
Bennett, Andrew and Nicholas Royle. “Me.” Introduction to Literature, Criticism and Theory. 3rd edn. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2004. 124-132. [whole book is here: http://site.iugaza.edu.ps/ahabeeb/files/2012/02/An_Introduction_to_Literature__Criticism_and_Theory.pdf]
Benveniste, Emile. “Subjectivity in Language.” 1958. Problems in General Linguistics. Trans. Mary Elizabeth Meek. Coral Gables: U of Miami P, 1971.
Blamires, Alcuin with Karen Pratt and C.W. Marx. Woman Defamed and Woman Defended: An Anthology of Medieval Texts. Oxford: Clarendon P, 1992. [for Aristotle and Aquinas]
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York and London: Routledge, 1990.
Descartes, René. Discourse on the Method (1637).
Ong, Walter. Orality and Literacy. New York: Methuen, 1988.
The Pilgrimage of the Lyfe of the Manhode. Vol I. Ed. Avril Henry. EETS os 228. London: Oxford UP, 1985.