Enigmas of Identity
"We know that it matters crucially to be able to say who we are, why we are here, and where we are going," Peter Brooks writes in Enigmas of Identity. Many of us are also uncomfortably aware that we cannot provide a convincing account of our identity to others or even ourselves. Despite or because of that failure, we keep searching for identity, making it up, trying to authenticate it, and inventing excuses for our unpersuasive stories about it. This wide-ranging book draws on literature, law, and psychoanalysis to examine important aspects of the emergence of identity as a peculiarly modern preoccupation.
In particular, the book addresses the social, legal, and personal anxieties provoked by the rise of individualism and selfhood in modern culture. Paying special attention to Rousseau, Freud, and Proust, Brooks also looks at the intersection of individual life stories with the law, and considers the creation of an introspective project that culminates in psychoanalysis.
Elegant and provocative, Enigmas of Identity offers new insights into the questions and clues about who we think we are.
Peter Brooks is the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Scholar at Princeton University. He is the author of many works of literary criticism, including Henry James Goes to Paris (Princeton), Reading for the Plot, Psychoanalysis and Storytelling, and Troubling Confessions. He is also the author of two novels, The Emperor's Body and World Elsewhere.