Enigmas of Identity

Princeton University Press
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"We know that it matters crucially to be able to say who we are, why we are here, and where we are going," Peter Brooks writes in Enigmas of Identity. Many of us are also uncomfortably aware that we cannot provide a convincing account of our identity to others or even ourselves. Despite or because of that failure, we keep searching for identity, making it up, trying to authenticate it, and inventing excuses for our unpersuasive stories about it. This wide-ranging book draws on literature, law, and psychoanalysis to examine important aspects of the emergence of identity as a peculiarly modern preoccupation.

In particular, the book addresses the social, legal, and personal anxieties provoked by the rise of individualism and selfhood in modern culture. Paying special attention to Rousseau, Freud, and Proust, Brooks also looks at the intersection of individual life stories with the law, and considers the creation of an introspective project that culminates in psychoanalysis.


Elegant and provocative, Enigmas of Identity offers new insights into the questions and clues about who we think we are.

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About the author

Peter Brooks is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholar at Princeton University. He is the author of many works of literary criticism, including Henry James Goes to Paris (Princeton), Reading for the Plot, Psychoanalysis and Storytelling, and Troubling Confessions. He is also the author of two novels, The Emperor's Body and World Elsewhere.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Sep 19, 2011
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Pages
232
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ISBN
9781400839698
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Language
English
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Genres
Law / General
Literary Criticism / General
Psychology / Personality
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Is there an ethics of reading, and is this something that the interpretive humanities can and should contribute to other professional fields, including law, and to public life? This book tests the proposition that the humanities can, and at their best do, represent a commitment to ethical reading. And that this commitment, and the training and discipline of close reading that underlie it, represent something that the humanities need to bring to other fields: to professional training and to public life. What leverage does reading, of the attentive sort practiced in the interpretive humanities, give you on life? Does such reading represent or produce an ethics? The question was posed for many in the humanities by the "Torture Memos" released by the Justice Department a few years ago, presenting arguments that justified the use of torture by the U.S. government with the most twisted, ingenious, perverse, and unethical interpretation of legal texts. No one trained in the rigorous analysis of poetry could possibly engage in such bad-faith interpretation without professional conscience intervening to say: This is not possible. Teaching the humanities appears to many to be an increasingly disempowered profession--and status--within American culture. Yet training in the ability to read critically the messages with which society, politics, and culture bombard us may be more necessary than ever in a world in which the manipulation of minds and hearts is more and more what running the world is all about. This volume brings together a group of distinguished scholars and intellectuals to debate the public role and importance of the humanities. Their exchange suggests that Shelley was not wrong to insist that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind: Cultural change carries everything in its wake. The attentive interpretive reading practiced in the humanities ought to be an export commodity to other fields and to take its place in the public sphere.in the public sphere.
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