An exploration into the curation of the self in Western civilization from Da Vinci to Kim Kardashian.
In a technologically-saturated era where nearly everything can be effortlessly and digitally reproduced, we're all hungry to carve out our own unique personalities, our own bespoke personae, to stand out and be seen. As the forces of social media and capitalism collide, and individualism becomes more important than ever across a wide array of industries, "branding ourselves" or actively defining our selves for others has become the norm. Yet, this phenomenon is not new. In Self-Made, Tara Isabella Burton shows us how we arrived at this moment of fervent personal-branding.
As attitudes towards religion, politics and society evolved, our sense of self did as well, moving from a collective to individual mindset. Through a series of chronological biographical essays on famous (and infamous) "self-creators" in the modern Western world, from the Renassiance to the Enlightenment to modern capitalism and finally to our present moment of mass media, Burton examines the theories and forces behind our never-ending need to curate ourselves. Through a vivid cast of characters and an engaging mix of cultural and historical commentary, we learn how the personal brand has come to be.
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Tara Isabella Burton is a contributing editor at the American Interest, a columnist at Religion News Service, and the former staff religion reporter at Vox.com. She has written on religion and secularism for National Geographic, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and more, and holds a doctorate in theology from Oxford. She is also the author of two novels Social Creature (Doubleday, 2018) and The World Cannot Give (Simon and Schuster, 2022), and one prior work of non-fiction Strange Rites (PublicAffairs, 2020). She lives in New York, NY.