Trials of the self

Murder, mayhem and the remaking of the mind, 1750-1830

By Elwin Hofman

Trials of the self
Hardcover -
  • Price: £25.00
  • ISBN: 9781526153142
  • Publish Date: Apr 2021
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
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    This highly original study brings together the disparate histories of murder and enlightenment, prostitution and the cult of nature, sodomy and sentimentalism in order to retell the story of the making of the modern self. It suggests that the history of the self needs to attend more to its class dimensions, and puts this insight into practice by examining the influence of the criminal courts in spreading and negotiating changing ideas of the self. Using criminal interrogations and witness statements, Trials of the self shows that an increasing stress on psychological depth in the late-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was not only important for elites, but also for common and illiterate people - sometimes even more so.


    How to do the history of the self: an introduction
    1 The self in court: procedures of conscience and confession
    2 Making reasonable selves: self-defence, honour and philosophical suicide
    3 Losing your self: magic, madness and other ways of losing control
    4 The tears of a killer: practicing sentimentalism and romanticism in criminal court
    5 The ambiguities of nature: self-talk as a challenge and as an opportunity
    Conclusion: fragments of a history of the self


    Elwin Hofman is a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation - Flanders, KU Leuven

    Trials of the self

    By Elwin Hofman

    Hardcover £25.00 / $36.95

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