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Biography and the Question of Literature in France$
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Ann Jefferson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199270842

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199270842.001.0001

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Michel Leiris: Autobiography and the Sacred

Michel Leiris: Autobiography and the Sacred

(p.269) 14 Michel Leiris: Autobiography and the Sacred
Biography and the Question of Literature in France

Ann Jefferson (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

When Leiris sought to reinvent literature as something more than what he regarded as empty formalism, he turned to autobiography as the means whereby writing might become an act with real consequences in the writer's own life. The autobiographical enterprise, as explored both in L'Age d'homme and La Règle du jeu, is allied to the performing arts as practised by his acrobat uncle and opera-singer aunt, laying the writer open to personal risk and holding out the possibility of giving form to the sacred in the modern world. Leiris's goal is to make living and writing indistinguishable from each other in ways that invariably fail but must constantly be pursued and recalibrated. In the process, the ideal of ‘poetry’ oscillates between the disappointingly derisory and the ideal whose pursuit keeps it constantly connected to the unfolding temporality of the writer's day to day existence.

Keywords:   Leiris, the sacred, autobiography, temporality, performing arts

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