Writing and constructing the self in Great Britain in the long eighteenth century

This volume of twelve essays, preceded by an introduction that succinctly frames the problematic and history of the notion of the ‘self’, examines the various ways the ‘self’ was perceived, fashioned and written in the course of the long eighteenth century in Great Britain. It highlights, in particular, the interface between literature and philosophy. The chapters include discussion of philosophers such as Locke, Shaftesbury, Mandeville, Hume, Hutcheson and Smith, churchmen such as Isaac Barrow and John Tillotson, the novelists Eliza Haywood, Samuel Richardson and Laurence Sterne, the poets Anne Killigrew, Alexander Pope, William Blake and William Wordsworth, the writers and sometime diarists Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, and the radical writer Sampson Perry.

The originality of the studies lies in their focus on the varied ways of seeing and saying the self, and what Locke called personal identity. They foreground the advent of a recognisably modern, individualistic and ‘sustainable’ self, which, still today, remains plural and enigmatic. The book should appeal to a wide public, both undergraduate and graduate students working in Literature and the Humanities, in particular those interested in the Enlightenment period, as well as researchers and the general public interested in questions related to identity and consciousness and their formulation in the past and present.

The volume follows a chronological narrative which surveys the intriguing and protean nature of the ‘self’ from varied perspectives and as expressed in different genres. It assembles contributions from both confirmed and young researchers from Britain, Europe and the United States.

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‘The easy-to-follow structure of the volume gives readers the idea of the progress of thoughts in their continuity and helps understand both congruous and controversial ideas. The selection of authors and thinkers represents a kaleidoscope of the self as perceived by contemporaries and reread by twenty-first-century scholars. Writing and Constructing the Self is a must-read for academics and university students who are concerned with the philosophical, literary, historical aspects of selfhood—along with the related notions of self-awareness, subjectivity, the first-person perspective in narratives, self-articulation, and individuality.’
Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (26.1)
August 2020

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