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The American Inner-Self Industry
CHUM 333
Fall 2010 not offered
Crosslisting: ENGL 335, AMST 333

A few years ago, I received a Quotable Card (quotablecards.com) birthday greeting blazoned with Ralph Waldo Emerson's "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to WHAT LIES WITHIN US." Bearing in mind Terry Eagleton's warning that what we are led to think of as "'inner space' is actually where we are least free," I googled terms related to this .com profundity with intriguing results: inner self (42,600,000 hits), inner self business (5,230,000 hits), inner self industry (1,400,000 hits), the soul business (70,900,000 hits), the soul industry (7,510,000 hits), and soulmaking (906 hits). Our seminar will begin with Ben Franklin--whose jingles still supercharge ads (Gold's Gym: "No pains, no gains")--precisely because this architect of capitalist incentive has no use or time for notions of the inner self. The other literary darling of advertisers is Emerson (his "Insist on yourself; never imitate" becomes Hugo cologne's "Innovate, don't imitate"). Are Franklin and Emerson in cahoots? From the Puritans through Jonathan Edwards to the antebellum romantics and the modern age of psychology, tropes of the inner self have proven indispensable to the reproduction of capitalist incentive, even as these figurations are used to rebel against "soulless" mechanization and standardization. Why and how does Franklinian-Emersonian capitalism require an inner-self industry? We will study religious tropes of "the soul," move on to the literary securalization of what Keats termed "soulmaking," and then consider psychological discourses that supplanted the metaphor of soul [always probing: why?]. To develop interdisciplinary historical and theoretical perspectives, we will read Franklin, Edwards, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain, and O'Neill and integrate and rethink the history and anthropology of emotional life, of interiority, and of incentive.

Essential Capabilities: None
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA ENGL
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: None

Last Updated on APR-24-2024
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