Reconsidering the Sources of the Self in the Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Periods

Project Statement

This project’s long-term aim is to reconfigure the historical study of conceptions of selfhood in the Western traditions. Models of selfhood have been studied in a range of different disciplines, including philosophy, history of ideas, theology, literary studies, and classics. This project will bring these different perspectives into dialog in order to broaden and deepen our understanding of how selfhood has been differently conceptualized and expressed during the ancient, medieval, and early modern periods.

Our starting point is the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Charles Taylor’s Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity. While Taylor’s work has been rightfully influential, recent scholarly work across the humanities has revealed significant gaps in his approach. This project will fill those gaps by

• including thinkers outside the standard philosophical/theological tradition,

• incorporating extensive discussion of medieval conceptions of selfhood,

• exploring how ideas of selfhood are articulated in forms and genres besides philosophical and theological treatises.

The new perspectives that this opens up will be impactful across the spectrum of the humanities, given the centrality of selfhood and interiority to all the humanities disciplines.

The catalyst for the project will be a workshop to be held in College Station, Texas on April 3-5, 2020. We are working towards an edited volume with revised versions of the workshop papers and an extended general introduction.

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