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Psychic Plagiarism: The Death of a Child in Marie Darrieussecq’s Tom est mort and Camille Laurens’s Philippe

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kathryn Robson


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The notion of ‘psychic plagiarism’ was formulated in 2007 by the writer Camille Laurens who accused Marie Darrieussecq of borrowing from her own memoir Philippe (which recounts the death of Laurens’s son) in her novel, Tom est mort. In alleging that Darrieussecq had appropriated her loss, Laurens also suggested that any first-person fictional narrative of the death of a child necessarily appropriates others’ grief. Rather than debating the charge of plagiarism or determining the extent to which fictional narratives of child death might be deemed inappropriate, this article rethinks what it means to narrate the death of a child in the first person through the notion of ‘psychic plagiarism’. Psychoanalytic and trauma theory are drawn upon alongside close analysis of Tom est mort and Philippe to theorize a parent’s awakening to the death of his or her child as a ‘missed encounter’ engendering an imperative to give testimony to the child as inescapably ‘other’ to the self. The analysis of these two texts explores how narratives of child death give voice to the other precisely through a ‘missed encounter’ that is ultimately projected onto the reader, who is awakened to the realization of (having missed) someone else’s traumatic loss.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robson K

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: French Studies

Year: 2015

Volume: 69

Issue: 1

Pages: 46-59

Print publication date: 15/01/2015

Online publication date: 06/11/2014

Acceptance date: 12/02/2014

ISSN (print): 0016-1128

ISSN (electronic): 1468-2931

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/fs/knu231


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