Affects, Everyday Writing Practices, and the Origins of Self-Analysis

Affects, Everyday Writing Practices, and the Origins of Self-Analysis. The Case of Julian Ochorowicz and Sigmund Freud.

4th 2022 Session of CEFRES Seminar 

When: Wednesday 30 March 2022, 4:30 pm
Where: At CEFRES and online (to register please contact claire(@)
Language: English
Host: Agnieszka Sobolewska (Warsaw University/Sorbonne University/CEFRES)


In what ways everyday writing practices (such as keeping a journal or writing letters) are related to science in the second half of the nineteenth century? How the differences between self-reflective techniques (such as introspection and self-analysis) are reflected in the generic divergencies between journal and epistolary practices? During this presentation, I will take a closer look at the important shift in the nineteenth century psycho-medical literature which was closely related to the question of psychological introspection and the emergence of psychoanalytic self-analysis in the late 1890s. This shift can be closely observed in life writing of the nineteenth-century psychologists, physicians, and future psychoanalysts, and was crucial for future understanding of the self in the twentieth century.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, journals often functioned as a space for practicing introspection. For more than fifty years, Polish scientist Julian Ochorowicz (1850-1917) — one of the most important figures of psychological thought in Poland – kept a journal where he practiced introspection, writing more than 24 thousand pages. Freud also experimented with self-reflection, but his self-analysis was based on a dialogue with another person. For Freud correspondence rather than journals became a perfect tool for self-analysis. Reading of Ochorowicz’s journals and Freud’s correspondence with Wilhelm Fliess (1858-1928) shows that introspection and self-analysis were intimately related to everyday writing practices – journals (in the case of Ochorowicz) and letters (in the case of Freud).

During my presentation, I will explore the crucial role played by life writing in psychological and early psychoanalytic knowledge formation. By analyzing Ochorowicz’s and Freud’s cases, I want to show how modern psychological and psychoanalytic thought were both influenced by life-writing, and how 19th-century psychology developed a new understanding of everyday-writing practices defined as closely related to self-analysis.