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The Self and the Political: Plato to the Present

Semester and Year FA 2014
Course Number IDSEM-UG1067
Section 001
Instructor Rosanne Kennedy
Days Fri
Time 9:30 AM - 12:15 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement SOC


What defines the “self”? Is it possible to “know thyself”? Or is the self something opaque, unknowable, secret, or in the parlance of psychoanalysis, the effect of unconscious drives? Is selfhood an internal experience or does that very experience come from outside, from others? Is the self primarily autonomous, or the consequence of social and political forces? How do definitions of gender and/or race come into play when we define ourselves or others? What, then, are the possibilities and limitations of “self-fashioning” – in what ways are we free to (re)invent ourselves? – in what ways are we limited? These questions are important not only in terms of self-understanding, but also because the answers have political implications. In this course, we will thus consider how different authors imagine both the self and its relation to the political. We will begin by reading classic definitions of the self: Plato, Seneca, Montaigne. We will then turn to modern theorists of the self: Rousseau, Nietzsche, Freud, Foucault, and contemporary theorists.



Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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