Beyond the Subject. Vienna Conference Papers

I Problems; Blindness and Autobiography


  • Dennis Schep Free University Berlin, Humboldt University Berlin



Blindness, Optics, Autobiography, Nietzsche, Cixous


The literary genre of autobiography dates back to the 18th century, when philosophy became a type of anthropology, archives and case histories strengthened the grasp of discourse over life, and modern authorship and hermeneutics led to new modes of reading and writing. Nietzsche and so-called French theory have put significant strain on this constellation in their shared critique of language, subjectivity and authorship – a critique that makes traditional autobiography all but impossible. Needless to say, this has stopped neither Nietzsche nor a number of postmodern theorists from writing their own autobiographical texts. Interestingly, blindness is a recurring figure in many of these texts; and in this article, I argue that this figure allows us to trace the generic upheaval generated by the problematization of the discursive constellation that fostered modern autobiographical writing. By means of a brief introduction into the history of optics and a close reading of Nietzsche's Ecce Homo and Cixous' 'Savoir,' I show that the malfunctioning eye is one of the figures employed to deinstitutionalize both the philosophical and the autobiographical tradition, allowing us to grasp what became of autobiography after philosophy pronounced the death of man, the subject, and the author.

This article was submitted to the European Journal of Life Writing in May 2014 and published on 16 March 2015.

Author Biography

Dennis Schep, Free University Berlin, Humboldt University Berlin

Dennis Schep (born in the Netherlands in 1985) holds two MA degrees; one in Media and Communications from the European Graduate School in Switzerland, and one in Intercultural Communication Studies from the European University Viadrina in Germany. He is currently a doctoral candidate in Literary Studies at the Free University of Berlin, where he is writing his dissertation on autobiographical fragments in theoretical texts under the supervision of Professor Joseph Vogl. He is the author of Drugs: Rhetoric of Fantasy, Addiction to Truth (Atropos Press, 2011), which examines contemporary drug discourse in relation to the suppression of irrationality in the age of reason. He has published papers on tourist photography, ghosts and technology, and performativity, and frequently publishes political texts in several Dutch media.







Beyond the Subject. Vienna Conference Papers