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Mortal ThoughtsReligion, Secularity, & Identity in Shakespeare and Early Modern Culture$
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Brian Cummings

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199677719

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677719.001.0001

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The Mortal Self

The Mortal Self

(p.19) 1 The Mortal Self
Mortal Thoughts

Brian Cummings

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines two central figures in the idea of the Renaissance ‘self’—Albrecht Dürer and Michel de Montaigne. Dürer's self-portraits and drawings from life are compared with Montaigne's improvisatory and experimental life writing in the Essais, in order to understand the presentation of the self in the act of drawing and writing. These new readings challenge the ‘secularization’ thesis while also questioning the idea of Renaissance subjectivity as self-sufficient. Of central concern is the idea of the ‘naked self’, the self reduced to its barest form; and also of mortality, the self's consciousness of its own limits, its temporality and perishability. Dürer is discussed in relation to models such as Mantegna, and Montaigne in relation to his reading of philosophy, especially scepticism and Lucretius.

Keywords:   self-portrait, life-writing, life-drawing, selfhood, death, mortality

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