A brief history of the self

During my first semester at Columbia, I was asked to teach “Western Humanities,” a course required for several majors at the College. Since it was to be the only humanities course many of my students experienced, I excerpted a variety of classic texts in the humanities evincing different models of thinking about what it is to be a self—from the virtue ethics of Aristotle to disciplinary power’s monitoring in Foucault. To conclude the semester, we read Nabokov’s Lolita, which took up many of the themes from the course. I would be thrilled to teach my revised course again, since I found it very effective in engaging the students in ‘big questions’ in Western humanistic thought.