How do we figure out past forms of personhood? How did templates of personhood change in the past? It seems that when it comes to reconstructing models of persons in the pre-modern past, the most persistence anachronisms and the most adventurous forms of othering are hard to avoid: Past persons are imagined as very much like us, imperfect versions of ourselves, or as utterly different—often only negatively defined as not possessing some essential attributes of ourselves (or rather, of our cherished self-images).
The three lectures would deal with modelling persons, past and present—with ways of modelling persons in late medieval and early modern times, one the one hand, and with historians’ attempts to reconstruct such models of past personhood, on the other. Rather than seeking to offer an extensive survey of a vast field, they seek to explore some possible approaches. We shall not ask directly about past notions of the person—for instance, about the concept of individual or self, elaborated by literati. Instead, each lecture would take a backdoor approach by following forms of action and social processes: Ways of shaking off an ascribed identity; attempts to shape and mold recalcitrant persons; and finally, explore an essential precondition for personhood—the emergence of ways of life.
2. Self-Fashioning, the other way around - Tuesday, 7 November, 2017