Seminar – Feikens – Self-portrayal versus self-betrayal – Wintersemester 2017/18

Seminar-Nr. 051 735, Dozentin: Janou Feikens        

Self-portrayal versus self-betrayal. Techniques and difficulties of documenting the self
2st., Mo 10-12, GA 1/153
Gegenstandsmodul: Print
Systematisches Modul: Ästhetik & Technik


Documenting the self is a practice that is prevalent, yet not limited, to the literary genre. In the literary discourse of western society, many authors have tried to document their personal lives. French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault noticed a change that took shape since the 17th century that left behind the indifference to the truth and the false and sought to tell “the most forbidden and the most scandalous” (Foucault 1979, 90) by, in a way, publicizing the private. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau exactly tried to do so when he published his work Les Confessions and paved the way for a confessional culture. He tried to shift the boundaries of private connoted content to public content by exposing all of his psyche in his work, or, in Rousseau’s words, “I do not dread saying too much, or advancing falsities, but I am fearful of not saying enough, or concealing truths.” (Rousseau, 169).
In this seminar, that will be partly held in English, Les Confessions will be closely examined to not only understand the linkage between self- and media technologies but to also identify the difficulties that can occur when attempting to document the self. The technicalities of the medium, in this case writing, will be the main focus point of the seminar – though with regard to the debates in media studies on the interdependence of self-technologies and recent media technologies, a secondary focus point will be a contemporary example of documenting the self (vlogging) in order to identify and compare various aspects of autobiographical processes that have altered the relation between self and media, as well as the relation between private and public. Alongside reading Les Confessions, we will discuss important concepts and theories on documenting the self.

Reading material for the first meeting (all materials will be available at Moodle):
Matravers, D. (1996): Introduction. In: Rousseau, J. The Confessions. Hertfordshire:
Wordsworth Editions, p. V – IX.


Christian Heinke