Thinking about the entry below made me think about a possible research plan. I could call it, An History of Egotism, and sell it as an offshoot of masculinity studies. You may know the term "mesearch" in academia, when feminists study feminism, and African-Americans study Civil Rights history, and so on. ("Mesearch" finds a rather repugnant Orientalist instantiation with the work of my estranged former mentor, a white man who studies Chinese interactions with the West, who just happens to have a native Chinese wife.) It's not exactly mesearch, I guess, since I definitely don't personify egotism or being egotistical, but it's something that I'm interested in, of course. Hero worship, the development of individuality, leadership...Napoleon, Nietzsche, Stendhal, Schopenhauer, the Continental philosophers (post-Hegel Germans like Fichte), Hitler. Not that I want to mention Hitler and GWBush in the same breath (I just did), but his leadership is a strikingly egotistical one. He's a dry drunk, can't take the blame for things (except when it's obvious to 95% of the country, like with Katrina), has centalized the executive office's power and played fast and loose with the Constitution.
Nevertheless egotism--its development as a theme concurrent with modernization--is something I haven't heard about as a study in itself. (Pausing to go to amazon.com and such....) Check that, egotism is a solid area of study: "Memoirs of egotism: (Souvenirs d'eÌgotisme) by Stendhal; In Respect to Egotism : Studies in American Romantic Writing (Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture) by Joel Porte, Albert Gelpi, and Ross Posnock (1991); Egotism in German philosophy, by George Santayana; from Project Muse: Rabate, Jean-Michel 1949- Joyce the Egoist Modernism/modernity - Volume 4, Number 3, September 1997 (351 results total). But: one area for mining must be egotism and modernity (which got 97 results, none of which alluded to the possible implications of egotism and postmodernity). "Who is the postmodern subject?" would be a good question to look at through the history of the individual.
That there's been some work on this subject is excellent and not a weakness, although it would mean that I would have to focus the research. Perhaps I should write my modern British literature paper on Durrell and egotism. Should be sweet.
I think that this research idea holds more promise than my previous idea of "the history of visuality" because I'm more interested in Freud, Nietzsche, "the writer"-as-a-role instead of "the story."
Perhaps more on this later. --adam.s