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The Diary

ENGL 103.601
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major

This course examines the diary as a genre, exploring its functions, meanings, forms and conventions, comparing it with fictive and non-fictive autobiographical writings such as the diary novel, autobiography and the memoir. Historical and cultural analyses supplement the literary and comparative examination of the diary, while focusing on selected texts of individual diarists and exploring several diary corpuses across time and cultures. Historically there was a gender distinction in diary writing. The conventional perception was that women engage in private diary writing, while men, especially public figures, used this form for public self-presentation. Hence the course will examine comparative gender diary writing as well. As part of establishing historical and theoretical perspectives of the diary genre, the course examines early mutual influences between the personal diary, the epistolary novel and the diary novel. Students will learn how to read literary and autobiographical materials in historical context. They will learn to apply critical theories regarding cultural expectations, gender and the functions of language in autobiographical writing, and consider the theoretical debate of whether the writing subject or the self is a given or socially made. Selected texts for the course are some canonical individual diary texts as the 17th century English diaries of Pepys and Ann Clifford; and the 20th century diary of Anai?s Nin. The diary corpuses are the 19th century intimate journals of young French girls, Colonial and American Civil War women diaries and WWII European Holocaust diaries.  Diary writing is an intimate mode of expression in which individuals seek to find meaning in their personal lives and relations, responding to the external realities in which they live. Their coping with both is subjected to their historical, educational and social contexts, and to the generic conventions of diary writing.