Individualism: The Cultural Logic of Modernity

Individualism: The Cultural Logic of Modernity

by Zubin Meer
     
 

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Individualism: The Cultural Logic of Modernity explores ideas of the modern sovereign individual in the western cultural tradition. Divided into two sections, this volume surveys the history of western individualism in both its early and later forms: chiefly from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, and then individualism in the twentieth century.

Overview

Individualism: The Cultural Logic of Modernity explores ideas of the modern sovereign individual in the western cultural tradition. Divided into two sections, this volume surveys the history of western individualism in both its early and later forms: chiefly from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, and then individualism in the twentieth century. These essays boldly challenge not only the exclusionary framework and self-assured teleology, but also the metaphysical certainty of that remarkably tenacious narrative on "the rise of the individual." Some essays question the correlation of realist characterization to the eighteenth-century British novel, while others champion the continuing political relevance of selfhood in modernist fiction over and against postmodern nihilism. Yet others move to the foreground underappreciated topics, such as the role of courtly cultures in the development of individualism. Taken together, the essays provocatively revise and enrich our understanding of individualism as the generative premise of modernity itself. Authors especially considered include Locke, Defoe, Freud, and Adorno. The essays in this volume first began as papers presented at a conference of the American Comparative Literature Association held at Princeton University. Among the contributors are Nancy Armstrong, Deborah Cook, James Cruise, David Jenemann, Lucy McNeece, Vivasvan Soni, Frederick Turner, and Philip Weinstein.

Editorial Reviews

John Carroll
The Cultural Logic of Modernity is a refreshing and timely collection of essays on the issue of individualism, its content and its history. It combines particular case-studies with a rethinking of the terms of the modern debate on the nature of the self. It draws on the central discussion that has followed Nietzsche, and includes Lukacs and the Frankfurt School, on the challenge of finding meaning in secular modernity. It does so intelligently and informedly.
Timothy J. Reiss
Bringing together new and established scholars, Individualism is a fascinatingly revisionist set of essays, some remarkable, on the cultural fates of personhood - "subjective" identity - in, mostly, the modern West since the seventeenth century: though the collection starts with study of a newfound medieval romance that forces rethinking of the age's experience of personhood and a near-Mandevillean account of Shakespeare, and closes with analyses of Reading Lolita in Tehran and of the exclusion of "exotic" experience, including of the human, from post-Renaissance accounts of western history (opening to new inclusions of such experience, altering, now, contemporary practice). Between are strong essays on canonical writers from Locke and Defoe to Lukács, Bakhtin, Kafka, Faulkner and Adorno, and less- or non-canonical artists like Margaret Cavendish, spies haunting London's streets, Grub Street and Precisionist painting. Striking is most essayists' shared precept that literature is the best site for pondering these historical experiences of personhood, and that what literature and accompanying practices (like philosophy and painting) show over past centuries is lack of any uncomplicated experience and understanding of the "individual" and of the "individualism" taken adequately to describe or explain it: rather that however modern western experiences of personhood are caught up in active expansionist senses of "self," they simultaneously create various collectivities on which they depend and without whose forms of order and disorder all experience and idea of the person is without ground.
James Thompson
The great virtue of Individualism: The Cultural Logic of Modernity lies in its scope: with half of the essays focused on early modern writers and the second half on later modern writers, the volume as a whole makes up an extended inquiry into the connections between modernization and individualism. The contributions span from examinations the 13th-century romance Silence to Nafisi’s Reading Lolita in Tehran on the one hand, and from Locke to Adorno to C. B. Macpherson and Charles Taylor, on the other. For such a diverse collection, the separate parts are unusually disciplined, all focused on the long history of our presumptions about individualism and the consequences for our conceptions of modernity. None of these provocative essays is predicable, for each one variously challenges the familiar narrative of the rise and subsequent death of individualism. This splendid and strikingly democratic volume, with first-class contributions form emergent as well as established scholars, should be of interest to anyone concerned with the last 300 years of social and cultural theory.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780739122648
Publisher:
Lexington Books
Publication date:
05/26/2011
Pages:
282
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Zubin Meer is a Ph.D. Candidate at York University, Toronto.

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