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Freud's psychoanalytic project was indebted to mechanisms and effects that were made visible by acts of forgetting. Certain terms for that, such as repression, became dynamic constructions within his notions of unconscious functioning. But there is a notable example of a relevant concept, with currency in some later nineteenth-century scientific discourses, that seemingly remained purely descriptive for him: amnesia. This essay, the first of two parts, looks closely at the genealogy of Freud's uses of amnesia in his early writings, arguing that its meanings, and functions, were more complex that might be readily apparent.