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Ricoeur saw individual identity as being either sameness or selfhood.
Eighteenth-century literary texts that center on selfhood are often discussed in gendered terms and in terms of periodization as they evolved from focusing on the female space in the sentimental novel, influenced by Richardson's Pamela (1740) and Clarissa (1748), to focusing on the male hero, for which Goethe's Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship with its (assumed) linear development leading to closure and completeness became the standard (Mahoney 2).
According to Quinney, such a view is "malformed" because it tends to dismiss not only the theoretical models of selfhood but also "the actual experience of subjectivity":
He asserts that the play's various fractures in evidence, judgment, race, and time are intentional and aim to tease out related fractures in early modern selfhood.
He identifies literary modernism, whose temporal borders he places in 1880 and 1940, as an epoch in which selfhood is interrogated and its concepts reformulated.
Selfhood of nations can give them freedom from mental and physical slavery.
Laffrado intriguingly proposes that serial publication enabled Willis to endow Fern with a flexible, fluctuating selfhood that gave access to an unusually diverse range of topics and varied relationships with readers.
Warner's pursuit of representations of souls is connected to questions of selfhood and subjectivity.
The broader philosophical questions underpinning Love & Money about selfhood, justice and moral action distinguish this Quarterly Essay from the divisive politics of the so-called mother wars and the tired accounting characteristic of the work/family balance debate.
Jung's search for the mysterious connection between the physical and the spiritual, as well as selfhood and destiny.
All of that changed in the denouement and aftermath of the American Revolutionary war, a crisis of identity that resulted in a new insistence on authenticity, which privileged interiority over exteriority and assumed a stable core of selfhood as an innate and essential component of every individual.
Atwood's interest in this line chimes with her frequent association between female identity and past selves; the movement in this line from a progressive, hopeful (and, significantly, unrealised) geographical metaphor for selfhood and a role-playing, past-centred notion of selfhood is deeply resonant with what Atwood engages with in much of her fiction, particularly in Lady Oracle (1976), Cat's Eye (1988) and The Robber Bride (1993).