Literary And Cultural Theory During The Modern And Postmodern Period

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Theories investigating subjectivity have dominated the field of literary and cultural theory during the modern and postmodern period. The way we understand subjectivity effects the way we understand the world around us, whether the subject is viewed in the Cartesian manner as a fixed entity, with a pre-existing nature that is not affected by the discourses that surround the it, or if we view the subject as one produced in and through the forces of power available in the time period, whether they be political, social or linguistic. The dominant model of understanding the subject up till the 20th century has been the model provided by Descartes, one where the self is understood as being independent and unsupported, where it is considered a private and autonomous experience deriving meaning and substance on its own without the assistance or influence of external factors. According to Descartes “true self-knowledge cannot rely on the contingent and fallible perceptual ideas that are not essential to one 's true self.” During the age of Enlightenment reason and empirical knowledge were foregrounded, and were focused upon as the most important factors in understanding the world, consequently the individual was also emphasized as the creator of meaning. Human beings were understood as being born with great potential, and a stable, true self that if given the right to its unrestrained expression, could flourish and achieve anything. Heidegger was one of the first thinkers to
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