Sources of the Self

Sources of the Self

How do we seek to understand the self, whether our own or that of each other? Is it something we can create or something that we uncover, an identity we claim or one that we may transform? The pursuit of self-knowledge and the search for identity may engage us in exploration that lasts a lifetime; many have found the very concept of a self to be misleading or illusory, an attempt to grasp hold of something that is fundamentally fleeting and perhaps even unknowable. Yet, as profoundly personal as our search for—or questioning of—the self may be, this pursuit draws us into negotiation with the social, cultural, philosophical, political, and historical circumstances in which we live—with our sense of a place in the world.

The title of our theme refers to the work of a modern Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, but our concern with sources of the self can be traced across a diversity of times and places, from the earliest forms of literature through to contemporary initiatives and debate, and from issues of personal identity through to matters of state. Guided by drama and discourse, travel narrative and autobiography, novel and digital archive, we will explore the manifold pathways that have been taken for the investigation or cultivation of the self, and inquire where those pathways may yet lead.

These are the works we will be studying:

Taylor, Sources of the Self  [selections]

Sophocles, Antigone

Augustine, Confessions

Plato, Republic


Kempe, The Book of Margery Kempe

Ibn Tufayl, Hayy ibn Yaqzan

Shakespeare, Hamlet

Hobbes, Leviathan [selections]

Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality

Wollstonecraft, Mary: A Fiction

Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano

Shelley, Frankenstein

Marx, The German Ideology

Darwin, The Voyage of the Beagle

Melville, Typee

Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morality

Gandhi, Hind Swaraj

Freud, Civilization and its Discontents

Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Laurence, A Bird in the House

Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist

Elsie Paul, Written as I Remember It


Reading list with ISBNs

*Note:  there is a new ISBN for Sophocles “Antigone”.

Book Order (2022W) updated on November 25, 2022