Authenticity discourse and the "traumatic event of materiality": Adapting composition theory to the new dividual self




Weber, Courtney

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This research examines the discourse of authenticity over time through the lens of philosophy, literature, and composition theory. My purpose is to define what it means to be "authentic" in different eras and how definitions of authenticity changed (or failed to change) with current societal issues. Once authenticity is defined, I seek to explain why, in today's 21st century digitized ecosystem, many of us still try to obtain the romantic notion of an authentic self when that self is no longer a plausible goal. This research also seeks to understand what it means to be authentic today if we can no longer obtain a prior concept of authenticity. The analysis of various philosophical, literary, and rhetorical works suggested that our current psyches are traumatized by what Tom McCarthy calls a "traumatic event of materiality." Our relationship with digital devices shocks us ontologically because we give these devices ontological value and because these devices blur traditional concepts of space and time to the extent that neither exists as they once did. Since we strive for what Andrew Potter calls an "authenticity hoax," our inability to achieve what we believe as an authentic existence due to the trauma of digital materialism is a shock to our system. This shock forces us to split our identities into various facets in numerous social network sites in an attempt to survive the trauma inflicted on us by our relationship to digital devices, my theory of the new authentic self. It's important, then, to redefine what it means to be authentic to avoid any further trauma and to learn to accept and adapt to the fact that we are no longer individuals but dividuals, at once many-sided and genuine. After redefining a new authentic self, we can apply this theory to the composition classroom, a space that has always relied heavily on the concept of the self, and adapt composition theory to this new authentic self.



Language, literature, and linguistics, Composition theory, Discourse analysis, Identity, Rhetoric