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Narcissism is the defining pathology of the twenty-first century, but what if it is not self-obsession that defines us but a need for self-transformation?
Narcissus in Bloom is a short history of the self-portrait, beginning with Renaissance painters like Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt and Caravaggio, through to photographers and celebrities like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, Lee Friedlander and Hervé Guibert.
Analysing the ways that so many artists have regarded their own image, how might the age of the selfie be considered as a time of transformation rather than stasis? By returning to the original tale of Narcissus, and the flower from which he takes his name, this book offers an alternative reading of narcissism from within the midst of a moralising subgenre of books that argue our self-obsession will be the death of us. That may be so. But what will we become after we have taken the watery track, and rid ourselves of the cloistered self-image given to us by late capitalism?
Matt Colquhoun is a writer and photographer from Hull, UK. They are the author of two books, Egress and Narcissus in Bloom, and the editor of Mark Fisher’s Postcapitalist Desire. Currently a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Newcastle University, they blog at xenogothic.com.
“Narcissus in Bloom is a real achievement … it marks a return to a now lost tradition: big-picture cultural theorising that speaks to and illuminates present-day anxieties in unexpected ways, spoken in the vernacular of contemporary popular culture, of the likes of Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall and more.”
“Relating one’s emotional self to those around us is at the very heart of Colquhoun’s queer critical and political project. Narcissus in Bloom is ambitious, moving, inspirational and loving… a purposeful and universal work driven by the author’s passion for photography.”
“Rather than see the selfie as a sign of self-absorption, this engrossing volume understands the selfie as expressing a longing for a kind of self-transformation. Elegantly and stylishly written, this book is the best kind of cultural criticism, sweeping away the worn- out cliches of the familiar for the freshness and wonder of the truly new.”
“A fascinating alternative genealogy of our modern obsession with the photographic self-image. You’ll never look at a selfie the same way again.”