New Book | Experimental Selves

Posted in books by Editor on September 17, 2018

From the University of Toronto Press:

Christopher Braider, Experimental Selves: Person and Experience in Early Modern Europe (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018), 448 pages, ISBN: 9781487503680, $90.

Drawing on the generous semantic range the term enjoyed in early modern usage, Experimental Selves argues that ‘person,’ as early moderns understood this concept, was an ‘experimental’ phenomenon—at once a given of experience and the self-conscious arena of that experience. Person so conceived was discovered to be a four-dimensional creature: a composite of mind or ‘inner’ personality; of the body and outward appearance; of social relationship; and of time.

Through a series of case studies keyed to a wide variety of social and cultural contexts, including theatre, the early novel, the art of portraiture, pictorial experiments in vision and perception, theory of knowledge, and the new experimental science of the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the book examines the manifold shapes person assumed as an expression of the social, natural, and aesthetic ‘experiments’ or experiences to which it found itself subjected as a function of the mere contingent fact of just having them.

Christopher Braider is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder.


Introduction — Changing the Subject: Early Modern Persons and the Culture of Experiment
1  The Shape of Knowledge: The Culture of Experiment and the Byways of Expression
2  The Art of the Inside Out: Vision and Expression in Hoogstraten’s London Peepshow
3  Persons and Portraits: The Vicissitudes of Burckhardt’s Individual
4  Justice in the Marketplace: The Invisible Hand in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fayre
5  Actor, Act, and Action: The Poetics of Agency in Corneille, Racine, and Molière
6  The Experiment of Beauty: Vraisemblance Extraordinaire in Lafayette’s Princesse de Clèves
7  Groping in the Dark: Aesthetics and Ontology in Diderot and Kant
Conclusion — Person, Experiment, and the World They Made


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