by Jason Tougaw
The essays collected here are written by students in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program at the CUNY Graduate Center–for a course entitled “Inventing the Self,” taught by Professor Jason Tougaw. MALS is an multi-disciplinary program, and the M.A. student writing collected here represents a novel range of mixed disciplinary methods and perspectives, including sociology, philosophy, literary studies, and psychology.
Contemporary thinkers working in diverse disciplines and genres have invented theories of selfhood that address a common question: Why does the self feel whole and real if we can’t locate it? Many contemporary thinkers share the belief that the self is a dynamic invention—a continuously evolving product physiology, social relations, artistic practice, and technological innovation. Collecting the Self brings together diverse responses to the questions that animate theories of selfhood emerging from contemporary philosophy, neuroscience, psychology, the arts, and literary studies.
Each essay takes up questions about the relationship between mind, body, and world from a different angle. Some of the essays emphasize culture, including Matthew Finston’s “Genealogy of Jewish Psychology: A Study of Mad Jews,” John Giunta’s “From Mind-Blind to Neurocosmopolite: Bridging the Gap Between Cognitive and Disability Studies,” and Yana Walton’s “To Thine Own Self Be True: Self Narratives, GenderQueer Identity, and Clinic Access.” Others represent and contextualize the first-person experience of individuals, including Samantha Gamble’s “The Preservation of Self in the Schizophrenic Person,” Alessandro Mittroti’s “This Boy’s Life Story,” and Sabrina Smith’s “The Visual Agnosic: Lacking Recognition.” Still others respond to theories of selfhood from a variety of disciplines, including Kristina Bodetti’s “Survey of the Metaphysics of Self,” Yitian Liao’s “Women and the Changes in Their Social Identities in the Nineteenth Century,” Shona Mari Sapphire’s “Selfhood: A Corporeal Understanding,” Jason Scaglione’s “The Will to Life: An Affective Ecology,” and Adam Wagner’s “Neuroscience and Philosophy: A Collaborative Self.”
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