Inventing the Self

Course Requirements

All students taking the course will complete the following:

  • Bi-weekly reading responses on the course blog + bi-weekly commentary on responses posted by others*
  • Research Project: The Research Behind the Lecture (including a proposal, an annotated bibliography, a draft, and a revised essay)

Reading Responses
Each week, half the class will post reading responses to our course blog before the Tuesday of that week. The other half of the class will post comments to at least two of their classmates’ posts before Wednesday afternoon. I will post a set of reading questions to the blog by the Saturday before each week’s meeting. You may choose to discuss one of these questions in your response, or you may choose an angle of your own. Reading responses should demonstrate engagement, imagination, and critical thought, but they need not be particularly formal or long. Two or three paragraphs is about the right length. It’s a good idea to include direct quotations from the texts discussed. It’s also a good idea to raise questions, explore moments of confusion or ambiguity, and make connections to other texts. Comments should be respectful responses, but they should also be probing and critical. See “Information” to see which weeks you will post reading responses and which weeks you’ll post comments.

Research Projects

Your job is to make a contribution to an online anthology of essays–defined broadly to include nontraditional forms and multimedia formats–entitled Inventing the Self.

Call for Papers

Inventing the Self will be a multidisciplinary anthology focusing on contemporary research on the origins, functions, meanings, and representations of selfhood. The editors invite submissions in a variety of genres:

1.  Literature Reviews. We invite review essays that emphasize synthesis and focus on a particular genre or a narrow set of  questions animating research on selfhood in a single discipline or multiple disciplines. For example, a literature review might focus on a recent group of graphic memoirs; or trade books written by neuroscientists; or recent publications on the relationship between social media and identity published in a variety of fields (e.g., media studies, philosophy, and cognitive science); or testimonials by people who have experienced illuminating phenomenologies of the self (e.g., hearing voices, phantom limb syndrome, seizures, or autism); or the latest research in a particular field (e.g., narrative psychology, neuropsychoanalysis, or digital humanitites). Literature reviews should make a sustained argument about the implications or relationships of the materials they survey. 

2. Critiques. We invite critiques of influential texts–books, online lectures (e.g., Ted Talks), published articles, films or blogs–that represent questions about selfhood for a broad audience. Critique essays should evaluate the relationship between the rhetoric and evidence in a given text, contextualizing its claims by examining them in relation to scholarly research and debates in the field of inquiry they represent.

3. Synthesis or “crossbreeding” essays. We invite essays that synthesize research in two texts or fields that deal with similar questions but don’t address or speak to each other explicitly.

4. Dialogues. We invite fictionalized dramatic dialogues between two or more existing thinkers interested in a similar topic or set of research questions. Dialogues must be accompanied by a scholarly preface or afterword.

5. Alternate proposals. We invite contributors to propose other genres.

Submissions should be 5,000 – 7,500 words, including all quotations and bibliographic references. They should follow the citation style appropriate for a given discipline (e.g., MLA for the humanities; APA for psychology or the social sciences; MLA or Chicago for multidisciplinary projects).


1. Proposals. In two or three paragraphs, your proposal should introduce your topic, identify your genre, and articulate the intellectual or scholarly motives for the project. (See Gordon Harvey’s “Elements of the Academic Essay” on motive.) Your proposal might include a hypothesis, but that’s not necessary. You should include a list of texts you will examine in the project. You’ll submit a draft of your proposal to me and to your writing group by Friday, October 18 (via email). We’ll workshop these proposals in class on October 23. Based on the feedback you receive, you’ll revise and submit your final proposal to me by Wednesday, October 30.

2. Annotated Bibliographies. Your annotated bibliography should include a list of works cited, formatted according to the citation style you will use in your essay, and a short paragraph for each citation. These short paragraphs should explain what role(s) the text cited will play in the essay. They should be written to persuade readers that each text belongs in the project. Where possible, you should identify which of Mark Gaipa’s techniques you might use when working with a given source. You will bring drafts of your annotated bibliographies on November 6. We’ll workshop them in class, and you’ll send a final version to me by November 13.

3. Drafts. You’ll send a draft of your research project to your writing group and to me by Sunday, December 8. Please include a 100-150 word abstract to be used on the table of contents page for our online anthology. We will workshop your drafts in class on December 11.

4. You will post the final version of your research project, including your abstract, to our anthology page, by December 18 (midnight).


Texts to Purchase

(All other readings listed on the calendar can be found on our “Readings” page, as links or PDFs.)

Alison Bechdel, Fun Home (Mariner Books 2007)
Dennis Cooper, God., Jr. (Grove Press 2005)
Antonio Damasio, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain (Pantheon 2010)
Siri Hustvedt, The Shaking Woman, or a History of My Nerves (Picador 2010)
Alva Noë, Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness  (Hill and Wang 2010)
Matias Viegener, 2500 Random Things about Me Too (Les Figues 2012)
John Wray, Lowboy (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux 2010)

Writing Groups
During the second half of the semester, you will be assigned to a writing group. You will complete your research projects in stages: proposal, annotated bibliography, draft, and revision. Members of each writing group will read each other’s drafts and offer feedback at each of these stages.

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