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Title: Interpreting identity : the confluence of performativity and the subjective in representations of love
Authors: Lim, Shane Han Jung
Keywords: DRNTU::Humanities::Literature::English
Issue Date: 2015
Abstract: Many of the ways in which we currently engage and produce literature – particularly the literature of love – in our present age of social liberalism owes much to the social, cultural and political transformations of the public sphere. Historic circumstances have secured for us an age in which the increased rationalization and demystification of the world permeates our lives at every level, revolutionizing the ways we perform ourselves both in the public sphere as well as in the private sphere of love and intimacy (Dowd & Pallotta 549- 550). Yet, it is questionable if this division between the private and the public is merely pedantic; at present, to speak of one is to speak of the other; a peculiarity afforded us by the sudden appearance of the Internet and its astonishing developmental surge. We are now able to broadcast to a ready audience at will our notions or acts of love without ever leaving the domain of the private. On the new frontiers of social media and its varied platforms, quite literally all the world’s a stage, and we, merely players. If the allusion to the Renaissance of Shakespeare has an odd relevance, it is because performing the self has moved from the exterior domain of the theatre into the interior recesses of the household, and is now a recognized and acknowledged element of theoretical and actual practice – a performance that includes the way we dress, the way we posture ourselves and the way we behave in public, but more importantly the performing of key Lim 3 social rituals that inform others about our social identity on these various platforms (Evans 17). The media industries offer new forms of social inter-personal intimacy dependent on these cultivated or created “social identities”, achieved through participation in consumption of mass media (Evans 54), while popular fictions reinforce the notion that personality can be communicated through personal taste and that material objects are visible, vivid signs of character and situation through which we define and reveal ourselves (Evans 69, 70). Thus, Mary Evans argues that love is now “more clearly encouraged and endorsed than at any time in its history by a social culture of entitlement and personal fulfillment” (55). Here, it is pertinent to stop and ask: what constitutes a social culture of entitlement and personal fulfillment? How exactly does this tie in with our intricate understanding of how we negotiate love and perform identity? And subsequently, how do we distill this in our literature of love? It is with this in mind that this paper accordingly seeks to first organize this information, using the theories of Jürgen Habermas’s The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere as a framework to comment on the idea of representation and how publicness is performed as an integral part of self-identification, to the performance of publicness as we recognize in our 21st century age of social media. From this process, we will then move into an analysis of the conventions of love as set up by the Renaissance – our first real indicator of a performative consciousness – with a particular focus on the works of John Donne. Following that, we will track the rise of subjectivity and the formation of identity distinct from an individual’s performed functions in society, in the form of the epistolary novel. Subsequently, we will see how these concepts of publicness, the performative and the self (as a repository of identity) come together in modernity through close-reading Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, before commenting on how these traditional literary themes have adapted to modernity and social media.
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:HSS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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