3. Breton and human nature
Read against the background of the debate on essentialism and anti-essentialism, the notion of “human nature” is problematic. Cultural Studies, for example, per- ceive human nature not as a given universal entity but as an entity dependent on time and culture. Cultural Studies, being anti-essentialist, argue further that identity is not “an entity” but “an emotionally charged description” of human beings. 136 According to Chris Barker, “truths, subjects or identities” must be viewed as being shaped by man’s surrounding. 137 Since identities “are discursive constructions that change their meanings according to time, place and usage,” 138 truths are not universals of nature but productions of culture in specific times and places. The speaking subject is dependent on the prior existence of discursive positions. Truth is not so much found as made and identities are discursive constructions. That is, truth and identity are not fixed objects but are regulated ways that we speak about the world or ourselves. Instead of the scientific certainty of structuralism, poststructu- ralism offers us irony—that is, an awareness of the contingent, constructed character of our beliefs and understandings that lack firm universal foundations. 139 Postmodernist criticism—including Cultural Materialism, New Historicism and Feminism—rejects the notion of an essential human nature: in the twentieth cen- tury, the focus shifts from nature to culture, in which nature is replaced by nur- ture. 140 This shift, according to Robin Headlam Wells, is one-sided and mainly attributed to a misreading of Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things. Wells...
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