The Humanities Institute

Founded in 1986, the Humanities Institute presents a thematic program each semester on a topic related to the humanities. As part of Scripps’ tradition of interdisciplinary education, this program includes lectures, conferences, exhibitions, performances, and film series bringing prominent and younger cutting-edge scholars to campus.

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Latest Program: Concepts of Self

Who do you think you are? In spring 2015, the Humanities Institute presents a series of events, lectures, and workshops examining one of the most important and interesting topics: me. Or, rather: the concept of self.

We will peer through a multidisciplinary, multimedia, multicultural kaleidoscope in order to observe this concept in theory, fiction, religion, politics, film, other media, and in its “natural habitat” within. We can think of the self as an animal, an immaterial spirit, a neural system, a center of an internal narrative, and an autonomous moral agent. Selves have also been conceived in terms of cognitive functions, something ultimately gendered, a unit or determinant of economic value, and a construction out of socio-political relations, power struggles, and culture. Or is the self just a stream of consciousness, something mediated and even created by technology, or a vehicle for reincarnation? Is it some sort of fiction or illusion, a sick delusion whose ultimate function is to facilitate suffering?

Join us as we examine concepts of self and ask where they come from, how they relate or fit together, what purpose they serve (and for whom), and what broader implications they might have.

Calendar of Events

The full calendar of public events for this semester is available here.

Coming Soon

Public Lectures: Peggy Phelan and Nancy Chodorow

February 6, 2015
Back-to-back lectures from 2:30-6:00 p.m.

Boone Recital Hall
Scripps College Performing Arts Center

Selfies: The Past and Future of Photographic Self-Portraits

2:30-4:00 p.m.
Peggy Phelan
Ann O'Day Maples Chair in the Arts and Professor of English and Theatre and Performance Studies
Stanford University

This talk begins with a discussion of Cindy Sherman's photography as a primary precedent for selfies generally, and feminist selfies in particular. It then moves on to a more philosophical and political analysis of what Phelan calls "the porosity of representation," brought about by transformations in technology and psychology. The talk concludes with a discussion of the future of the self-portrait in the age of performance.

Phelan's early work helped give a framework to the field of performance studies; her essay "The Ontology of Performance," is among the most frequently cited in the field. She writes frequently about feminist art, performance theory, politics, and psychoanalysis and culture. Her books include: Unmarked: the politics of performanceMourning Sex: Performing Public Grief, and Art and Feminism (ed. Helena Reckitt). Recently she edited Live Art in LA: Performance in Southern California, 1970-1983.

"Could you direct me to the Individuology Department?" Psychoanalysis, the Academy and the Self

4:30-6:00 p.m.
Nancy Chodorow
Lecturer on Psychiatry
Harvard Medical School/Cambridge Health Alliance

Training and Supervising Analyst
Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute

Professor Emerita of Sociology and Clinical Faculty Emerita of Psychology
University of California, Berkeley

This lecture will suggest that the contemporary university is missing a field whose main focus is the study of individuality and the self.  The presenter conceptualizes this field, provisionally named individuology, as on a continuum with the qualitative social sciences, and she sees psychoanalysis as providing a major theoretical grounding.  Psychoanalysis gives us a comprehensive theory of individuality, and its methodologies could be and have been extended to non-clinical work.  Although individuology overlaps with psychology, and several fields in the humanities draw upon psychoanalysis, the study of individuals requires on the one hand a more qualitative, interactive and intersubjective methodology than we find in contemporary psychology and on the other the study of people, not texts.

Nancy J. Chodorow is in private practice in psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in Cambridge, MA.  Her books include The Reproduction of Mothering (1978/1999); Feminism and Psychoanalytic Theory (1989); Femininities, Masculinities, Sexualities: Freud and Beyond (1994); The Power of Feelings: Personal Meaning in Psychoanalysis, Gender, and Culture (1999); and Individualizing Gender and Sexuality: Theory and Practice (2012).  In addition to writings on gender and sexuality, she has written extensively on comparative psychoanalytic theory and technique, psychoanalysis and the social sciences, and Hans Loewald and the Loewaldian psychoanalytic legacy.  Recent writings name a psychoanalytic “American independent tradition,” provisionally conceptualized as intersubjective ego psychology.