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The I is constituted by the discourse it builds about itself, its self-assigned task being to transform the fragmentary elements of its past, whether they come from itself or from other people, into a historical construction. The difference between memory and history involves the sequencing of facts to meet two requirements: first of all, that of imparting a feeling of temporal continuity, and in addition, simultaneously, endowing this historical construction with a power of causal explanation with regard to the future (Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de, 1998). The I thus figures, according to the title of Piera Aulagnier's L'Apprenti historien et le maître sorcier (The apprentice historian and the master sorcerer; 1984), as an "apprentice historian" faced with the "master sorcerer" constituted by the id.

Autohistorization is the only way the subject can grasp the notion of time, which can only make sense to the subject in relation to his or her own desires and self-perceptions: "The process of identification is the hidden side of the work of historicization that transforms the unfathomable entity of physical time into human time, that replaces irrevocably lost time with a time that speaks it," writes Aulagnier.

This history is that of the I 's relationship to its objects: a libidinal history, and a history that can only target the I indirectly, through the Other. From temporality to memory to history there occurs an unfolding movement, the construction that the I must effect in order for its existence to make sense.

In Aulagnier's view, we are "historians whose quest always founders on an 'already-there' about ourselves or others that resists our efforts to elucidate it." This human inevitability forces the I to take possession of this preexisting "elsewhere" and to include it within itself; to do this, the I must rely on the accounts of other people who provide it with an affirmation that what it is and what it was are identical, and at the same time give elements of information on this issue. This gives rise to the question of what happens when others fail to transmit to the subject the "first paragraphs" of an individuals personal history and prehistory.

In L'Apprenti-historien et le maître sorcier, Aulagnier develops the notion of "nonhistory" in the schizophrenic. In these cases, the mother exerts on the infant's psyche an action of repression so powerful that it will render impossible even the revealing of non-repressed material (and, as it happens, inculcate a desire for death as well) that is present and active within the mother's own psyche. Hence the attempted delusional reconstruction that would enable the subject to do without this contribution from the mother: "The fantasy of self-engenderment that is present in certain forms of psychosis can most often be decoded, on close inspection, as a fantasy that gives the subject the power to engender not just his or her own past, but all past, not just his or her own origins, but all origins."

Aulagnier's entire theory on psychosis, contrary to monolithic interpretations (such as foreclosure in the Name of the Father, double bind, and so on) reflects, as did Sigmund Freud's work, a perspective that is essentially historical, focusing on singular events. What she demonstrates here concerns the consequences of prohibition on memory, and thus the work of autohistorization without which the I cannot come into being.

Sophie de Mijolla-Mellor

See also: Apprenti-historien et le maitre sorcier (L') [The apprentice historian and the master sorceror]; Family romance; Psychic temporality.


Aulagnier, Piera. (1984). L'Apprenti-historien et le maître sorcerier. Du discours identifiant au discours délirant. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Mijolla-Mellor, Sophie de. (1998). Penser la psychose. Une lecture de l'oeuvre de Piera Aulagnier. Paris: Dunod.