Michel Leiris: Ethnography or Self-Portrayal? Review Essay of Sulfur 15, Featuring New Translations of Michel Leiris’s Work

Essay Excerpt

In ethnography, the nature of the connections is largely dictated by the structure of the social phenomena under observation (a "secret language," or spirit possession, for instance), and by the concepts and the methodology of the discipline, its conditions of scientific verisimilitude, so that the degree of freedom or arbitrariness of the associations is severely limited, as it also is by the imperative of verifiability by outside observers. No such exterior guidelines or constraints obtain in literary self-portrayal, except self-imposed "rules of the game" (which, in the case of Leiris, include a contract of veracity extending to the most embarrassing inferences) and the general principles of verisimilitude ruling a post-Freudian culture, as well as the procedures of invention, which conform more or less to principles codified by our ancient rhetoric. (Beaujour, 478-479)

About the Author

Dr. Michel Beaujour was a Professor of French at New York University. His main interests were Renaissance literature; contemporary poetry; literary theory; stylistics; rhetoric; poetics; comparative and ethno-poetics. 

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