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Origins of the Individualist Self: Autobiography and Self-Identity in England, 1591-1791 Hardcover – February 1, 1997


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Hardcover, February 1, 1997
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

This book offers an account of the origins of modern English autobiographical writing, which the author locates in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and it links the development of this genre with the emergence of modern ideas of the self, where self-identity becomes its own object and telos.
The author’s analytic framework for assessing the evolution of autobiographical practice is broadly cultural; he views autobiographical practice as a public performance, an assertion of new forms of self-identity. Throughout his analysis, he seeks to bring together a complex of technological and economic developments (in reading, printing, and marketing—i.e., the beginnings of print culture) with a set of institutional pressures and constraints (especially efforts aimed at achieving social and religious control)—all of which operated with people and their discourse to produce modern autobiographical narratives.
In the process of tracing the origins of modern autobiography, the author discovers that although early autobiographies have come to be equated largely with a male, middle-class subject, the historical agents active in creating the genre were more diverse than is commonly assumed. For example, though the actual roles of women and the poor were always marginal, the author finds that members of both groups contributed to the production of modern autobiography.
By providing a genealogy of modern autobiography—along with what the author calls its referent, the individualist self—in a particular historical and cultural context (early modern England), the book helps to revise more traditional, universalist accounts of the “rise of individualism” and its role within political culture in the last two centuries.

About the Author

Michael Mascuch is Assistant Professor of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley

Product details

  • Hardcover : 288 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 0804729018
  • ISBN-13 : 978-0804729017
  • Product Dimensions : 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Item Weight : 8 ounces
  • Publisher : Stanford University Press; 1st Edition (February 1, 1997)
  • Language: : English