Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Deliberating the Self

This week will examine some of the diary writing of Samuel Pepys, Dudley Ryder, James Boswell, and Fanny Burney, and consider also more public facing reports of the self, such as Rousseau's Confessions and Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, or the more novelistic Sterne's Sentimental Journey, or Mackenzie's Man of Feeling. Each of the former group kept an extensive diary, recording events and their reactions, but also exploring their internal and their social life, their bodily states and desires, their social status and intellectual anxieties, and so on. Who were these diaries written for, and for what purpose? And what were Rousseau and Franklin doing in setting out their lives for a public readership? How far are we witnessing a form of largely non-religious internal reflection in which the body and society are accepted and indulged as having their own imperatives and pleasures; how far is this an exploration of the changing character of masculinity in the enlightenment world; and how far is it an attempt to gain some sense of self in a world experienced as other and in which place and standing cannot be assumed? It is also worth getting a sense of the contrast between such writing and that of, for example, John Bunyan in Grace Abounding or Pilgrim' Progress.

Assignment for September

Before the start of term all students should read six months of at least two or three of these diaries (Pepys, Ryder, Boswell). You should dip into either Pilgrim's progress or Grace abounding to compare the style and concerns and you should read a year of Fanny Burney's diary.

Core Reading

Please read, as a minimum, extracts from Pepys, Boswell, and Rider.

Samuel Pepys: see http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/

John Bunyan, Grace Abounding or Pilgrim's Progress

The Diary of Dudley Ryder, 1715-16 (1939) DA 483.R9 see short extract here

James Boswell, London Journal 1762-3 (3 copies in the Library PR3325) see extract (This also includes brief sections from Montaigne, Montesquieu, Hume, and Rousseau here)

Fanny Burney, Journal and Letters - see an early edition here there is also a 2001 Penguin edition.

Other sources include:

Rousseau's Confessions http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3913/3913-h/3913-h.htm

William Upcott - transcription of a ms Diary in the BL 1803-7 see here

Sharon Turner - transcription of diary of a ms in the BL 1794-5 see here

The following are items that, if you are interested in autobiography and self-analysis, might also form the basis for essay work.

Franklin Autobiography: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20203/20203-h/20203-h.htm see short extract here

Laurence Sterne, Sentimental Journey - http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/804

Henry Mackenzie, The Man of Feeling - http://www.gutenberg.org/files/5083/5083-h/5083-h.htm

Suggested Secondary Reading

The emphasis in this module is on the primary texts. So do prioritise reading those! However, in case you have time for additional reading/desire any extra background for some weeks I have provided a few suggested secondary texts.You can also find suggestions for relevant secondary reading in this bibliography.

Roy Porter (ed.), Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present (1997), esp chs 2, 3, 5. Avaliable online

Philip Carter, 'Men About Town: Representations of Foppery and Masculinity in Early Eighteenth Century Urban Society' in Hannah Barker and Elaine Chalus (eds.), Gender in Eighteenth Century England (1997) - in library at HQ 1075.5.E5.G46 (permanent copt avaliable at learning grid)

Dror Wahrman, The Making of the Modern Self (2004) - online

John Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination (2013) - online

Stuart Sherman, 'Diary and Autobiography', in The Cambridge Companion of English Literature, 1660-1780 (2005) - online

Tim Hitchcock and Michelle Cohen, English Masculinities, 1660-1800 (1999). Lots in here of interest, but the chapter on Boswell is especially relevant. At library PR448.M37.E54

The Lecture:

This is divided into a number of sections that you can access at your leisure. You are very strongly recommended to do so well before the class to that they can inform your reading for the class.

For the class you should consider the following questions:

Why might diary keeping have become more widespread among men in this period?

What different purposes might people's diaries serve?

Should we trust these diaries as an authentic record of these men's behaviour? How far do you think they were meant to be read by others - and which others?

What evidence do the diaries provide concerning men's anxieties and concerns, and around which factors do these predominantly revolve?

What evidence do the diaries give us concerning these men's relationships with one or the following: i. women; ii. people of a superior social class; iii. people of an inferior class; people regarded as 'outsiders' or foreigners?

Finally - what differences if any do you note in the way in which Fanny Burney records aspects of her life in her Diary.