Self, Identity, and the Individual in British History

History 103C.002

Fall 2013
Instructor (text): 
Katie Harper
Day & Time: 
Tu 10-12P
This course is intended to provide a broad overview of the historical development of the modern subject, using Britain as its case study. What do we mean when we say “the modern individual”? How can something like “me” or “ourselves” mean different things in different time periods, and in different contexts? Rather than seeing this as a singular, linear development, we will look at a collection of processes that made up the modern individual. For example, we will explore: the invention of secular rationality; increasingly rigid categories of racial, gender and class identities and the reclamation of these identities in 19th and 20th social movements; the self-interested commercial subject that underpinned British liberal capitalism; the subject of self-help and the state of continuous
improvement; and the psychological self created in British psychiatry and psychoanalytic circles. Taken as a whole, these disparate topics will help us trace how Britons came to understand themselves as modern individuals, and how political, economic, and social regimes were developed around the
cultural formation of the modern self.
The seminar will also provide a substantial overview of British political thought and cultural history from the early modern period to the present day. We will use primary sources, including political thought, economic writing, literature, and social science; as well as secondary literature on the history of subjectivity, identity, individualism, and the history of emotions.
Katie Harper is a PhD candidate in British history at Berkeley. Her dissertation is about the problem of loneliness and isolation in 20th century British culture and politics