cover of book

The Comic Self: Toward Dispossession
by Timothy C. Campbell and Grant Farred
University of Minnesota Press, 2023
Paper: 978-1-5179-1492-9 | Cloth: 978-1-5179-1491-2 | eISBN: 978-1-4529-6880-3
Library of Congress Classification BF697.5.S43C365 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 158.1


A provocative and unconventional call to dispossess the self of itself


Challenging the contemporary notion of “self-care” and the Western mania for “self-possession,” The Comic Self deploys philosophical discourse and literary expression to propose an alternate and less toxic model for human aspiration: a comic self. Timothy Campbell and Grant Farred argue that the problem with the “care of the self,” from Foucault onward, is that it reinforces identity, strengthening the relation between I and mine. This assertion of self-possession raises a question vital for understanding how we are to live with each other and ourselves: How can you care for something that is truly not yours?

The answer lies in the unrepresentable comic self. Campbell and Farred range across philosophy, literature, and contemporary comedy—engaging with Socrates, Burke, Hume, Hegel, Marx, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida, Deleuze, and Levinas; Shakespeare, Cervantes, Woolf, Kafka, and Pasolini; and Stephen Colbert, David Chappelle, and the cast of Saturday Night Live. They uncover spaces where the dispossession of self and, with it, the dismantling of the regime of self-care are possible. Arguing that the comic self always keeps a precarious closeness to the tragic self, while opposing the machinations of capital endemic to the logic of self-possession, they provide a powerful and provocative antidote to the tragic self that so dominates the tenor of our times.

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