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AbstractThis paper draws on the work of Michel Foucault in order to sketch a preliminary genealogy of the practice of confession in the twentieth century. The essay argues that confession has undergone major transformations, not only from a chiefly religious to a secular practice, hut to a form of <em>psychologised</em> self-knowledge productively typical of knowledge itself in post-Kantian modernity. In other words, we argue that confession has become diffused through knowledge practices such that it becomes imperative to confess to a particular style or use of language in the pursuit of such knowledge. The confession of a style in language thus becomes a prerequisite for such knowledge, or the inability to arrive at it. We investigate the phenomenon in the examples of the ‘factional’ literature of Norman Mailer, and the human science of ethnography.