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The body of knowledge: The object of learning. Epistemophilia and the desire for self

Catharine Gabriel Carey, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The claim of individuals to a private cohesive self might be interestingly thought of as an effect of consciousness. Even if illusory, the self is an object to which one establishes relations, and can be usefully examined by object-relations theory, especially when "troubled" by feminist and gender theory. This self resists institutional identities and received knowledges--perceived as "rot" because they conceal at their core secrets and lies--through the snooping processes of epistemophilia. Epistemophilia responds to the lure of suppressed knowledge, what cannot be out-spoken or often even conceptualized. Literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries displays cultural ideas about self-fashioning and the ideal self. Epistemophilic characters in George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, and Jeanette Winterson's Written on the Body resist or utilize their perceived "calls" to marry, to enter profession, and to fall in love, developing their own less predetermined epistemologies based on a newly reclaimed desire for self. Epistemophilia teases out the issues of the role of early interests, talents, and premonitions of genius, the perfomativity of reunions, and the lesbian sublime. ^

Subject Area

Women's studies|English literature|Personality psychology

Recommended Citation

Carey, Catharine Gabriel, "The body of knowledge: The object of learning. Epistemophilia and the desire for self" (1998). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9841847.