The Return of the Self

Picture 11Something interesting took place in the late 18th century; although we were already seeing books on such topics as self-denial, self-ignorance, and self-condemnation, a prior, declining discourse on the self seems to have been re-purposed and successfully connected to two other, equally prior, discourses that had, up until then, been of little consequence: the discourse on the individual and the discourse on experience.

For — while not putting too much weight on an N-gram chart, of course — it seems evident that whereas today these three terms are virtually synonyms, three centuries ago they certainly were not.

What changed?

To rephrase: how might we imagine defining and then using the discourse on the self so as not to overlap with our modern notions of the individual and of experience? For writing an archeology of the self would require just such imaginative work.

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