Experimental Selves: Person and Experience in Early Modern Europe

By Christopher Braider

© 2018

Drawing on the generous semantic range the term enjoyed in early modern usage, Experimental Selves argues that ‘person,’ as early moderns understood this concept, was an ‘experimental’ phenomenon—at once a given of experience and the self-conscious arena of that experience. Person so conceived was discovered to be a four-dimensional creature: a composite of mind or 'inner' personality; of the body and outward appearance; of social relationship; and of time.

Through a series of case studies keyed to a wide variety of social and cultural contexts, including theatre, the early novel, the art of portraiture, pictorial experiments in vision and perception, theory of knowledge, and the new experimental science of the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the book examines the manifold shapes person assumed as an expression of the social, natural, and aesthetic ‘experiments’ or experiences to which it found itself subjected as a function of the mere contingent fact of just having them.

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Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 448 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.8in x 1.6in x 9.1in
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SKU# SP005298

  • PUBLISHED SEP 2018

    From: $67.50

    Regular Price: $90.00

    ISBN 9781487503680
  • PUBLISHED OCT 2018

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    Regular Price: $90.00

Quick Overview

Drawing on the generous semantic range the term enjoyed in early modern usage, the book argues that person as early moderns understood it was an "experimental" phenomenon--at once a given of experience and the self-conscious arena of that experience.

Experimental Selves: Person and Experience in Early Modern Europe

By Christopher Braider

© 2018

Drawing on the generous semantic range the term enjoyed in early modern usage, Experimental Selves argues that ‘person,’ as early moderns understood this concept, was an ‘experimental’ phenomenon—at once a given of experience and the self-conscious arena of that experience. Person so conceived was discovered to be a four-dimensional creature: a composite of mind or 'inner' personality; of the body and outward appearance; of social relationship; and of time.

Through a series of case studies keyed to a wide variety of social and cultural contexts, including theatre, the early novel, the art of portraiture, pictorial experiments in vision and perception, theory of knowledge, and the new experimental science of the late-seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the book examines the manifold shapes person assumed as an expression of the social, natural, and aesthetic ‘experiments’ or experiences to which it found itself subjected as a function of the mere contingent fact of just having them.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Division: Scholarly Publishing
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 448 pages
  • Dimensions: 5.8in x 1.6in x 9.1in
  • Reviews

    "By weaving together analyses of the emerging empirical sciences, political thought, theater, the early novel, and art, the author manages to contribute to ongoing discussions of the new significance that experience takes on in these domains. Christopher Braider tests the main argument of the book, according to which early modern ‘persons’ were ‘experimental,’ against a rich background of philosophical and intellectual historical ideas about the early modern individual. Indeed, the scope of Experimental Selves is impressive, spanning the gap between late-fifteenth-century neo-Platonist Pico della Mirandola and the eighteenth-century philosophe Denis Diderot and philosopher Immanuel Kant; however, it also intervenes in a debate of even larger scope, on the modern individual, also known as ‘subject’. Braider manages the wealth of references and scholarly works and navigates through them with a steady voice."


    Antónia Szabari, French and Comparative Literature, USC

    Experimental Selves is an important, challenging, yet intensely readable book, one that ranges with ease from the Renaissance humanist Pico della Mirandola (1486) to the idealist philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790), from Dutch genre painting of the seventeenth century to Diderot’s Salons of the eighteenth.  The book includes wonderful close readings of literary texts and paintings alike.”


    Blair Hoxby, Dept. of English, Stanford University
  • Author Information

    Christopher Braider is a professor of French and Comparative Literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
  • Table of contents

    Introduction.  Changing the Subject: Early Modern Persons and the Culture of Experiment

    1.  The Shape of Knowledge: The Culture of Experiment and the Byways of Expression
    2.  The Art of the Inside Out: Vision and Expression in Hoogstraten’s London Peepshow
    3.  Persons and Portraits: The Vicissitudes of Burckhardt’s Individual
    4.  Justice in the Marketplace: The Invisible Hand in Ben Jonson’s Bartholomew Fayre
    5.  Actor, Act, and Action: The Poetics of Agency in Corneille, Racine, and Molière
    6.  The Experiment of Beauty: Vraisemblance Extraordinaire in Lafayette’s Princesse de Clèves
    7.  Groping in the Dark: Aesthetics and Ontology in Diderot and Kant

    Conclusion.  Person, Experiment, and the World They Made