Psychoanalysis and autobiography: Leiris, freud and the obstacle to self-knowledge

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Psychoanalysis and autobiography are both projects of self understanding. In both, the attempt to understand oneself reaches a limit. What is the nature of the limit to self-knowledge? The first chapter, “Mors” of Michel Leiris's Scraps (Fourbis), the second volume of his The Rules of the Game (La règle du jeu), richly explores the limits encountered in the attempt to understand oneself, and the circumstances in which it runs into opacity. There are two kinds of obstacles to self-knowledge, and both can be read in Freud's famous metaphor of the navel of the dream. We could either think of a well-hidden, inaccessible nucleus of meaning or of a network that spreads infinitely, its edges impossible to trace. These two images of obstacles each support a certain structure of meaning and inquiry. Leiris's text oscillates between the two models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-147
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Trustees of Indiana University


  • Autobiography
  • Fourbis
  • Michel leiris
  • Navel of the dream
  • Self-understanding
  • Sigmund Freud


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