Experimentation and the Autobiographical Search for Identity in the Projects of Michel Leiris and Hubert Fichte

Author: Wilks, Thomas
This study compares the substantial literary projects of Michel Leiris and Hubert Fichte, and it examines how they overstep theoretical prescriptions in their explorations of the self. The author concentrates predominantly on those components of these multi-volume projects that he argues are autobiographically motivated, although he establishes that these texts are not straightforwardly representative of this mode. In its tripartite arrangement, his study investigates the main areas of critical attention relating to the classification of the authors’ works, with particular reference to autobiography. Throughout this investigation, he provides evidence for his contention that for Leiris and Fichte alike, life and writing becomes mutually defining over the protracted progressions of their self-scrutiny. In the first part, he highlights biographical parallels between the authors, and he compares their respective project-conceptions. He then evaluates the efficacy of autobiographical theory in explaining their self-projections beyond their personal experience and towards textual processes of enactment.


“ ... Dr. Wilks is a sophisticated handler of theoretical writings on autobiography, but uses the two focal points of his study to challenge and extend the limits of even the major theorists ... Dr. Wilks exposes the autobiographical status of theses works subjacent to their fictional surface, and by exploring the subtleties in Fichte’s and Leiris’s expansion of the range of ‘life writing’, he exposes the limits of what Lejeune has styled the ‘autobiographical pact’ in which the autobiographer functions as author, narrator and character ...” – (From the Preface) Professor Robert Vilain, Royal Holloway University of London

“This excellent study explores the affinities between two of the twentieth century’s most vital literary projects ... Dr. Thomas Wilks succeeds not only in bringing new insights to the reading of Leiris and Fichte but in adding significantly to our understanding of the nature and uses of autobiography. This is an impressively erudite and original work of criticism.” – Professor Michael Sheringham, University of Oxford

“ ... The book not only offers new critical insights into the works of its two key figures, Hubert Fichte and Michel Leiris, but additionally provides an excellent framework in which to explore their relationship to recent theories of autobiography and life writing ... [the author’s] study represents an original and invigorating contribution to the field of European comparative literary studies ...” – Professor Eric Robertson, Royal Holloway University of London

Table of Contents

Preface by Robert Vilain

Part I – Positioning Leiris’s and Fichte’s Work
1. Introduction
2. Approaching the Autobiographical Path and Overstepping its Boundaries

Part II – Characteristics of Individuality
3. The Language of Leiris’s Development
4. Fichte: Stage Acting, Staged Writing

Part III – Reading Beyond Autobiography
5. Fichte’s ‘Empfindlichkeit’: Directing our Reading
6. Intertextualities: Firmly in the Plural
7. Glosses: Their Forms and Functions
8. Conclusion: The Enforcement of Ending