The challenge of the image : readings in the crisis of auto(bio)graphical self-representation : [with particular reference to Rousseau, Valéry and Barthes]
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This thesis focuses on the 'challenge of the image' to self-perception and a central sense of selfhood. It suggests that, as a result of the trigger provided by this challenge, new intuitions of selfhood and new forms of representation have been developed in auto(bio)graphical writing. The dynamic reciprocity of challenge and response is studied in three strategically chosen authors, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Paul Valéry and Roland Barthes, whose works span over more than three centuries and who allow a complete cycle of ideas on the self and the possibilities of self-representation to be explored in the perspective of the generating mechanism identified. The increasing reflexivity of Western consciousness as exemplified by each of these authors, is seen to engender by this means new and increasingly subtle forms of self-representation in order to convey adequately a progressively complexified view of the subject or self. In following the emergence and development of auto(bio)graphy in this way, the thesis contributes to an ongoing diagnosis of the nature and origin of a contemporary crisis in auto(bio)graphy, a crisis in which the relation between selfhood and its representational forms and language has been placed under increasing scrutiny or suspicion. It is argued here that there can be no simple expulsion of the subject from the domain of auto(bio)graphy. The challenge of the image suggests, on the contrary, that it is precisely the sense of a central 'I', however elusive and irreducible to theory this may be, which ultimately still provides the impetus for new and innovative auto(bio)graphical production.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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