Thursday October 15, 2015

The Massey Forum at Stratford: The Discovery of the Self

Detail from Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man'

Detail from Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man'

Listen to Full Episode 53:58

Where does the idea of the individual "self" come from? What roles do culture and gender play? The idea of the self, as we understand it today, sets us apart from people in the past.  This episode is one of a series recorded at the Stratford Festival, featuring CBC Massey Lecturers. It features 2011 CBC Massey Lecturer and staff writer for The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik; Adam's father and literature professor Irwin Gopnik; and psychologist and author Susan Pinker.

How do we get the idea of ourselves as individuals? And, how does our sense of ourselves shape how we function in the world? The idea of the self, as we understand it today -- after the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and Sigmund Freud -- seems quite different from the way in which people of a previous era might have thought of themselves. 

Shakespeare gives us a reminder that not everything is new, that people from the distant past acted much the same way that we do.