This book argues that the Renaissance, long associated with the historical development of individualism, in fact witnessed the emergence of radically new concepts of group identity. From the end of the fifteenth century, rapidly accelerating globalization intensified cross-cultural encounters, destabilized older categories of large- and small-group identity and contributed to the rise of new hybrid group concepts. Drawing on insights from psychoanalysis, linguistics and social network theory, this book advances a theory of 'group subjectivity' - perceptions, fantasies, and patterns of belief that guide the behaviors of individuals in groups and of collectives. Considering not only Europe, but also South Asia, Africa, the Sugar Islands of the Atlantic, the Caribbean world and Brazil, Hannah Chapelle Wojciehowski reconsiders the Renaissance in global context, presenting micro-histories of group identity formation, and persuasively argues that we think of that transformational era as a 're-networking' of the world and its peoples, rather than a 'rebirth'.
Hannah Chapelle Wojciehowski is Associate Professor of English at the University of Texas, Austin, and an Affiliate of the university's Program in Comparative Literature as well as the South Asia Institute. A specialist in the history of subjectivity and group-identity formation, she is the author of Old Masters, New Subjects: Early Modern and Poststructuralist Theories of Will, as well as numerous essays on medieval and Renaissance authors, and on the history and practice of literary theory.
Introduction: the group and the individual: recollecting Burckhardt's Renaissance; 1. Lacooen: the group as a work of art; 2. Of cannibals and caraibas: the group as a mouth; 3. Utopia: the prenascent group; 4. The Buddha's tooth relic: the group mystery; 5. Hamlet's machine: the inorganic group; 6. The animal hospitals of Gujarat: the collective unbound; Conclusion: post-Freudian thoughts on the future history of groups.