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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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Engl 320 nov 30 the history of i and me
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

  • the medieval self is a subject of desire: constructed through its relationship to love – of God, the neighbor, the beloved

  • the Enlightenment self: rational, doubting; interiority

  • 20th-century poststructuralist notions of subjectivity call in question the idea that the subject is master in its own house

  • Notions of gendered identity have also shifted over time

  • Gender as fixed / Gender as constructed / Gender as fluid

    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).

Engl 320 course themes
ENGL 320 Course Themes

  • Love, Sex, and Desire

  • Borders and Boundaries: Human/Animal; Human/Monster; Free/Slave

  • Religion and Belief

  • Disgust, Excess, Bad Taste

  • Roots and Englishness? Britishness?

    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)

The carpenter s square explained
The carpenter’s square explained for

  • Pax = a self that is at peace with Christ/God and its neighbor– and a self that is brought peace by obedience to the comandments Love God and Love thy neighbor.

    P = proximus (Latin for neighbor)

    a = anima (soul)

    x = Christus (Christ)

René Descartes: the for cogito (1637)The rational self of the Enlightenment:the self as master in its own house

“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.

Poststructuralist subjectivity the self as subject of and subject to
Poststructuralist Subjectivity: for the self as “subject of” and “subject to”

  • the subject of language

  • the subject of ideology

  • the “split subject”: the conscious self/the unconscious

1 the subject of language
1. the subject of language for

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.

  • Interiority: the representation of the interior self as having depth and self-consciousness

Medieval gender identity medicine theology philosophy
Medieval gender identity: for medicine, theology, philosophy

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)

Judith butler performative gender no before of the body sex gender
Judith Butler: for “performative gender”no before of the body, sex, gender

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)

References for

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.