Academic journal article Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies

Introduction

Academic journal article Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies

Introduction

Article excerpt

The current issue of The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies (JEMCS) offers four scholarly essays that all, in differing ways, focus upon the self and its technologies.

For Kristina Booker, the self in question is class-identified, and the technologies of its identification include various kinds of competitive/imitative behavior- e.g., the oft-encouraged upper-class effort to match past ideals of patriotic achievement, or the less-welcome lower-class tendency to imitate the vices and indulgences of one's betters-that can be understood collectively as forms of emulation. Samuel Richardson's Pamela and Daniel Defoe's Roxana stage emulative activity in differing ways, achieving complementary formulations of social anxiety in the process. The eponymous heroine of Richardson's novel functions as a "master-class ideal," humble and pious, her social advancement managed consistently by others. Defoe's Amy, by contrast, effects a dystopian reversal of social and domestic standards, in the process attesting to the discomfort that subtends Richardson's ideal.

Marie-Odile Bernez, in turn, focuses upon a particular form of emulation: the variety produced in the eighteenth century by economic growth and the increased availability of luxury goods for middle-class consumers. These goods, when marked as luxuries, inherit a specific and troublesome ethical character that derives not only from the word luxury's etymological affiliations with lust and sin more generally but also from the historical identification of luxury with upper-class privilege. Thus eighteenth-century writers rehabilitate luxury goods and their consumption by identifying them instead with a competing vocabulary of comfort-a vocabulary more closely associated with virtue as well as with the developing discourse of English nationalism.

For Kari Nixon, on the other hand, the self corresponds to its anatomical manifestations, which in turn provide a pattern for understanding various extra- anatomical configurations and processes. …

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