Cover of Mirages of the Selfe by Timothy J. Reiss
Mirages of the Selfe
Patterns of Personhood in Ancient and Early Modern Europe
Timothy J. Reiss


640 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804745659



Through extensive readings in philosophical, legal, medical, and imaginative writing, this book explores notions and experiences of being a person from European antiquity to Descartes. It offers quite new interpretations of what it was to be a person—to experience who-ness—in other times and places, involving new understandings of knowing, willing, and acting, as well as of political and material life, the play of public and private, passions and emotions.

The trajectory the author reveals reaches from the ancient sense of personhood as set in a totality of surroundings inseparable from the person, to an increasing sense of impermeability to the world, in which anger has replaced love in affirming a sense of self. The author develops his analysis through an impressive range of authors, languages, and texts: from Cicero, Seneca, and Galen; through Avicenna, Hildegard of Bingen, and Heloise and Abelard; to Petrarch, Montaigne, and Descartes.

About the author

Timothy J. Reiss is Professor of Comparative Literature at New York University. The most recent of his many books is Against Autonomy: Global Dialectics of Cultural Exchange (Stanford, 2002).

"Reiss has masterfully woven together various threads of personhood into a powerful work on the self . . . This is a work that readers will ponder long after they finish the final page."