Sartre, Self-Formation and Masculinities (review)


In his latest book, Jean-Pierre Boulé provides a fresh look at Sartre by conducting a reading of the author’s life and work that focuses on the construction of selfhood and gender. Boulé concentrates primarily on what he refers to as the “early Sartre” (from 1905–1945) through a reading of his work published between 1936 and 1945 in order to “demonstrate a new way of connecting biography and oeuvre” (2). He conceptualizes self-formation as a process that occurs at the juncture of the psychoanalytical and social constructivism or what he calls the “psycho-social formation” (7) and he describes his study as a search for the “multiple Sartrean selves” (2). Furthermore, he maintains that masculinity includes both hegemonic and subordinate forms and that Sartre generally puts forward a sense of a “grandiose” or “inauthentic” self associated with hegemonic masculinity. Hence for Boulé, “narcissism” or a “burying” of self-expression functions in Sartre’s process of self individuation because Sartre generally neglects his “feminine self” in his early writing and social relations.

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