The Origins of the Individualist Self
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The Origins of the Individualist Self : Autobiography and Self-Identity in England, 1591 - 1791

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Description

This book traces the emergence of the concept of self-identity in modern Western culture, as it was both reflected in and advanced by the development of autobiographical practice in early modern England. It offers a fresh and illuminating appraisal of the nature of autobiographical narrative in general and of the early modern forms of biography, diary and autobiography in particular. The result is a significant and original contribution to the history of individualism.

Michael Mascuch argues that the definitive characteristic of individualist self-identity is the personal capacity to produce a unified retrospective autobiographical narrative, and he stresses that this capacity was first demonstrated in England during the last decade of the eighteenth century. He examines the long-term process of innovation in written discourse leading up to this event, from the first use of blank almanacs and common place books by the pious in the late sixteenth century, through the popular criminal biographies of the late seventeenth century, to the printed-for-the-author scandalous memoirs of the mid-eighteenth century.

While offering a detailed account of a significant period in the rise of a modern literary genre, Origins of the Individualist Self also addresses topics which are central in the fields of literary and cultural theory and social and cultural history.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 165 x 237 x 21mm | 578g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745608744
  • 9780745608747
  • 2,334,851

Back cover copy

This book traces the emergence of the concept of self-identity inmodern Western culture, as it was both reflected in and advanced bythe development of autobiographical practice in early modernEngland. It offers a fresh and illuminating appraisal of the natureof autobiographical narrative in general and of the early modernforms of biography, diary and autobiography in particular. Theresult is a significant and original contribution to the history ofindividualism.

Michael Mascuch argues that the definitive characteristic ofindividualist self-identity is the personal capacity to produce aunified retrospective autobiographical narrative, and he stressesthat this capacity was first demonstrated in England during thelast decade of the eighteenth century. He examines the long-termprocess of innovation in written discourse leading up to thisevent, from the first use of blank almanacs and common place booksby the pious in the late sixteenth century, through the popularcriminal biographies of the late seventeenth century, to theprinted-for-the-author scandalous memoirs of the mid-eighteenthcentury.

While offering a detailed account of a significant period in therise of a modern literary genre, Origins of the IndividualistSelf also addresses topics which are central in the fields ofliterary and cultural theory and social and cultural history.
show more

Table of contents

Prologue: Advertisements for Myself.
Part I: The First English Individualist:.
1. Narrative Subjects: Individualism, Autobiography, Authority.
2. A Novel Self-Identity: The Performance of Individual Authority in James Lackington's Memoirs.
Part II: Early Ancestors: The Sacred:.
3. Christian "Experience": or, The Discourse of Life and Death.
4. Writing on the Heart: Preserving Experience in First-Person Discourse.
5. A Press of Witnesses: The Impact of Print.
Part III: Immediate Precursors - the Profane:.
6. True Confessions: John Dunton and the Subject of Repentance.
7. The Trump of Fame: Self-Identified Heroes and Heroines.
Epilogue: 'The Author ... Our Hero'.
Notes.
References.
Index.
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Review quote

"In this elegantly--written study, Michael Mascuch displays an impressive and refreshing ability to deploy the diverse disciplines of history, sociology and English literary criticism in forming a powerful argument about intellectual and cultural change. Through detailed textual and historical analysis he identifies the origins of the modern autonomous personality. By lending a new precision to debates on the mental world of pre--modern men and women this intelligent and highly original book will change the way we understand the historical origins of modern individualism." R. A. Houston, University of St. Andrews
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