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Course module: 880060-M-6
Self-fashioning, Life Writing and Mediatisation
Course info
Course module880060-M-6
Credits (ECTS)6
CategoryMA (Master)
Course typeCourse
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byTilburg University; Tilburg School of Humanities and Digital Sciences; TSHD: Department of Culture Studies; Culture Studies;
Is part of
M Culture Studies
M Language and Culture Education
dr. P.A. Bax
Other course modules lecturer
dr. L.H.M. Hanssen
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2018
Starting block
Course mode
RemarksThis information is not up to date. Check the Course Catalog 2019 or select the course via “Register”.
Registration openfrom 20/08/2018 09:00 up to and including 31/07/2019
The threefold focus of the course is

1) on rhetorical and institutional strategies of self-fashioning and posture,

2) on forms and genres in the realm of life writing

3) on practices of and theories on writing biography

After completing this course, you will be able to
- describe and recognize important concepts from theoretical discussion on self-fashioning, life writing and biography that one needs to understand the public performances of literary writers, visual artists and other public figures in literary history /art history and in (historical and contemporary) media culture
- formulate a substantiated and well-argued analysis and  interpretation of a cultural expression (literary text, art work) in the domain of life writing
- formulate a substantiated and well-argued analysis and interpretation of a public performance of a public figure, making use of concepts such as self-fashioning and posture
- formulate a substantiated opinion on theories on self-fashioning, life writing and biography.
- formulate a substantiated opinion on the cultural historical developments of authorial figures / media images of literary writers and visual artists in the 19th and 20th century.
- formulate and conceptualize, in a substantiated way, new authorial figures and media images that might help to analyze the self-fashioning of contemporary literary writers and visual artists.
- report orally and written in an understandable manner
- make an adequate and understandable summary of a complex academic text
- compare different cultural theoretical academic texts and to evaluate their differences
- deduce relevant cultural theoretical or cultural historical research questions from the comparison of several cultural theoretical and cultural historical texts
- design a small research project on the basis of the aforementioned questions
- write an academic paper in which you report the results of the aforementioned small research project
These skills are part of the design of this course:
- analytical and critical skills / problem-solving skills / creative and innovative thinking (assignments in class, construction and report of the research project)
- writing skills (written report on the research project in the form of a Diggit Magazine-academic paper)
- working in a team / planning and organisation / social and communication skills (assignments in class)
- presentation skills (assignments in class),
- digital/ICT Skills (Diggit Magazine assignment).


The academic paper written for this course is constructed as a Diggit Magazine assignment
The concept of self-fashioning deals with the way in which artists as public figures create a ‘public identity’, which is often opposed to an alleged ‘personal identity’. This course departs from the idea that they are not free to choose any public identity whatsoever. Instead, in the course of cultural history there seem to have been several more or less pre-described ‘roles’ available for them to choose. Is it indeed possible to bring back the variety of types of self-fashioning  to a restricted number of fundamental forms, such as the dandy, the bohemian or the nerd? The objective is to come to an understanding of how public identities are formed from the middle of the 19th century till the present day. What were the determining factors and procedures of the forming of the various (but not infinite) types of self-fashioning? We question the role visual artists and literary writers have played in the development of this variety of roles, masks and forms and the way they have dealt with the circumstances of their time (new historicism).

This MA course will start with a theoretical elaboration on the way literary writers and visual artists deal with the tension between private and public. To what extent do they deliberately make a construction of their own identity as an artist and as a person (in the cultural field as well as in the public media)? In what way can concepts such as self-presentation (Goffman), self-fashioning (Greenblatt) and posture (Meizoz) be helpful in understanding the public performances of writers and artists? How is the specific notion of public identity linked to the development of modernity in cultural history (Sennett, Calinescu)? How is it possible that the cultural tradition of self-presentation culminated in a form of self-effacement in the late 1960’s (Roland Barthes’ Death of the Author), only to coincide much later with the paradigmatic turn towards life-writing genres and the present-day cult of celebrity?

In the second part we will dive into various public roles, the development of which we will trace from the origins until the present. How can we describe and classify these roles? Which conventions ensure the creation of these roles? We will deal with a number of case studies in order to gain a clear insight into the presentation (performance) in public space and the different narratives that guide this performance . One can think of essays, novels, poems, autobiographies and biographies that help to narrate the life of the individual under scrutiny. With that we enter the realm of ‘life-writing’. What happens when writers and artists use their own lives as the subject-matter of their work? Which genres do they choose to practice? Which artistic and ethical debates do they arouse? How does the public deal with the way fiction and reality are interwoven. And how does the use of life writing influence the public authority of writers and artists?

A provisional list of public roles of self-presentation:

The dandy (snob)
The (eternal) bachelor
The bohemian
The celebrity
The flaneur
The grande bourgeois
The homo ludens (man the player)
The intellectual / The nerd / the engineer
The man in the crowd
The poet-prince

In the third part of the course, we will challenge the students to write a paper in which they construct a new role that exists or has existed. Can we broaden the scope of our theory? Which case studies are available?

Compulsory Reading
  1. to be announced

Timetable information
880060-M-6|Self-fashioning, Life Writing & Mediatis
Required materials
Recommended materials
Paper (100%)

Kies de Nederlandse taal