Kenneth Wain and the Lifelong Engagement with Education
9. Self-Writing, the Feminine, and the Educational Constitution of the Self
Some of the most important works on technologies of the self referring to techniques by which human beings actively form their selves as subjects are undoubtedly Foucault’s later works. Foucault focuses in particular on technologies of the self practised in late antiquity, practices by which individuals work on their selves as if they were a work of art. Foucault (1984, 1988a) traces the variations of these practices from Plato’s Alcibiades to the texts of Seneca, Plutarch, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius, Pliny, and Galen, showing the different techniques by which individuals sought to change themselves as ethical subjects. Self-writing in the Hellenistic age became an increasingly important exercise of self-care. Foucault (1988a) described these as “taking notes on oneself to be reread, writing treatises and letters to friends to help them, and keeping notebooks in order to reactivate for oneself the truths one needed” (p. 27). Writing the self was also a way of knowing oneself, but this was practised to sustain the self rather than to confess or renounce it. Up to the Hellenistic age, these practices were autonomous in the sense that they were not imposed by disciplinary mechanisms of law, religion, or education (Foucault, 1983). They were personal activities that individuals chose to take up in order to constitute their selves, to master themselves in order to have a beautiful existence, and “to attain a state of happiness, purity and immortality” (Foucault, 1988a, p. 18). The practices were, however, socially grounded in that they were practices developed with the...
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