The Diary

This course examines the diary as a genre with its own function, structure, conventions and expectations, comparing it, on the one hand with other forms of autobiographical writings such as the autobiography and the memoir, and on the other hand with fictive diary or the diary novel.  During the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe there was a mutual influence between the personal diary and the diary novel, which over time achieved independence and separate developments.  Historically there was a gender distinction in diary writing.  Mostly women were seen as engaged in private diary writing, while men, especially public figures, resorted to this form of expression and self-presentation with the intent to publish.  Hence the course will examine comparative gender diary writing.  A special emphasis will be placed on the “Holocaust Diary”.  It represents a case in which both, context and text deviate significantly from the norms and expectations of the genre, and from the circumstances in which diary writing is usually practiced.  While Holocaust diaries share the quality of privacy and intimacy with other diaries, they also functioned as testimonies and eye-witness reports to historical events, combining writing of self and community.  Yet, as a first person form it is concerned with the writer’s own identity and perceived meanings.

T 6-9


  • COML-502
  • ENGL-490

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The Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania

The Alice Paul Center for Research on Gender, Sexuality and Women

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