French 265A: Modern Studies — I Confess: Self-Narration and Self-Representation From the Novel to New Media
Is the â€śselfâ€ť of Rousseauâ€™s ConfessionsÂ the same as the self of the 21st century digital selfie? To what extent is subjectivity bound up in the means ofÂ its technical mediation? This course stages an encounter between histories of autobiography, theories of the subject/subjectivation, and recent developments in media theory.Â We will ask how the â€śprivate selfâ€ť of an earlier colonial modernity was given form in the novel and the autobiography, then explore how the invention of photography and film refashioned the subject as â€śideally visible,â€ť before considering how digital media cultures generate forms of subjectivity for which the defining imperative would no longer be confession but rather circulation.
We will spend some time with Foucaultâ€™s discussions of the confessional imperative that situates sexuality at the opaque foundation of the modern subject, reading them in relation to critical commentaries on the production of the â€śIâ€ť in literature and philosophy (works by Butler, Paige, Lucey, De Man). We will explore the interrelation of medium, subjectivity, and apparatus in theoretical works by Althusser, Deleuze, Debord, Baudrillard, Stiegler, Preciado, and others. Throughout, we will draw on specific examples of autobiography and/or self-portraiture in various media forms, from Rousseau to Proust, Varda, Godard, Sophie Calle, and contemporary vloggers.Â Taught in English, with texts available in French or English translation.