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Concerns of The Self 1800/1900: Freud and The Making of Modern Subjectivity

Kugler, Thomas Wolff (2019) Concerns of The Self 1800/1900: Freud and The Making of Modern Subjectivity. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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Abstract

This thesis draws on conceptual tools developed in Michel Foucault’s late work on ‘technologies of the self’ to historically reposition The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), not as the inaugural text of the ‘psychoanalytic movement’, but instead as belonging to a long-standing tradition of practices and writings, which view the self as an object of cultivation, representation, and knowledge. In order to historicize psychoanalysis in this way I critically examine practices and techniques employed within hypnotism and experimental psychology, in addition to literary discourses on self-representation in 19th century autobiography. As a scientific treatise, a technical manual and a quasi- autobiographical text, Interpretation borrows from each of these approaches. In doing so, however, Freud would install a tension at the heart of the modern self that radically undermined the liberal conception of the individual as transparent, coherent, and responsible. My conviction is that positioning psychoanalysis within the history of practices of the self, and charting its ‘pre-history’ in these terms will deepen our understanding of Freud’s oeuvre as a significant event and agent in the history of subjectivity. For as this thesis contends, Freud contributed to the emergence of the notion that the self was an object that could be critically renegotiated via the relation of the self to itself, rather than submission to religious values, universal notions of duty, or bourgeois aesthetics. In doing so, Freud provided certain techniques of self-reflection to individuals who would not have had the authority or expertise to give an account of, or alter themselves in this way before. Finally, this reading also subverts Foucault’s critique of psychoanalysis (represented in his middle works) by arguing that Freud’s ‘technology of the self’ cannot be subsumed under the rubric of ‘governmentality,’ and instead constitutes a ‘caustic’ technology that enables individuals to identify and renegotiate prior subjections.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CT Biography
D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of
Depositing User: Thomas Kugler
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2020 15:04
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2020 15:04
URI: http://repository.essex.ac.uk/id/eprint/26461

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