The Diary

The Diary

The Epic of Everyday Life
Edited by Batsheva Ben-Amos and Dan Ben-Amos
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 03/10/2020
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 978-0-253-04698-7
Bookmark and Share

Other formats available:

Buy from Amazon


The diary as a genre is found in all literate societies, and these autobiographical accounts are written by persons of all ranks and positions. The Diary offers an exploration of the form in its social, historical, and cultural-literary contexts with its own distinctive features, poetics, and rhetoric. The contributors to this volume examine theories and interpretations relating to writing and studying diaries; the formation of diary canons in the United Kingdom, France, United States, and Brazil; and the ways in which handwritten diaries are transformed through processes of publication and digitization. The authors also explore different diary formats, including the travel diary, the private diary, conflict diaries written during periods of crisis, and the diaries of the digital era, such as blogs. The Diary offers a comprehensive overview of the genre, synthesizing decades of interdisciplinary study to enrich our understanding of, research about, and engagement with the diary as literary form and historical documentation.

Author Bio

Batsheva Ben-Amos is Adjunct Professor of Comparative Literature in the College of Professional and Liberal Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a practicing clinician and has written about Holocaust diaries. Dan Ben-Amos is Professor of Folklore and Comparative Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of numerous titles, including Sweet Words, Folklore in Context, Jewish Folk Literature,( in Hebrew and Russian), and a translator of In Praise of the Baal Shem Tov (with Jerome R.Mintz). He is editor of Folklore Genres, Folktales of the Jews (volumes 1–3 ), Folklore: Performance and Communication (with Kenneth S. Goldstein) and of Cultural Memory and the Construction of Identity (with Liliane Weissberg).  


""This book is an important contribution to pedagogy and knowledge. With its capaciousness and its surprises, it is much like a diary itself—adhering to a particular form, but also pressing against its conventions.""

 (Lara Kriegel, Associate Professor of History and English; Director, Victorian Studies Program; Co-Editor, Victorian Studies, Indiana University)

"This impressive collection spans a wide array of theoretical approaches, considers several cultures, and examines the diary across its history and in its many subgenres. From the lives of ordinary teenagers to the victims of the Holocaust, the diaries considered here range across the breadth of human experience. The essays are uniformly well written as one after another offers unexpected and intriguing insights. Everyone interested in diaries and genre theory will want to read this volume."

 (Gary Saul Morson, Lawrence B. Dumas Professor of the Arts and Humanities , Northwestern University)

"People have been writing diaries for more than a millennium, but only during the last fifty years have scholars given serious attention to the theory and practices of this most personal of literary forms. The Diary: The Epic of Everyday Life brings together 27 essays by leading diary scholars in an informative and engaging survey. Examining examples from 12 countries on 6 continents, the authors deal with different varieties of the genre (diaries of private life, of travel, of conflict) in its handwritten, printed, and online incarnations."

 (Peter Heehs, author of Writing the Self: Diaries, Memoirs, and the History of the Self)

"This impressive collection is an anatomy, a geography, and a history of the diary in all its incarnations, from papyrus to online. Batsheva and Dan Ben-Amos have brought major theorists and critics together with scholars working at the cutting edge of diary and new media. The result is an indespensible guide to 'The Epic of Everyday Life.'"

 (Craig Howes, Director, Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawaii at Mānoa)

"The cream of the crop of diary experts from many different countries writing about many different aspects of the genre – this is a book to be read very carefully to learn from it, and use it as an inspiration to complement it with even more reflections from life writing scholars from even more countries."

 (Monica Soeting, editor of European Journal of Life Writing)

Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents


Introduction / Batsheva Ben-Amos and Dan Ben-Amos

Part I: Diary Theories

1. The Practice of Writing a Diary / Philippe Lejeune and Catherine Bogaert, translated by Dagmara Meijers-Troller

2. Feminist Interpretations of the Diary / Kathryn Carter

3. The Diary Among Other Forms of Life Writing / Julie Rak

Part II: The Creation of a Diary Canon

4. British Diary Canon Formation / Dan Doll

5. The Diary in France and French-Speaking Countries / Michel Braud, translated by Dagmara Meijers-Troller

6. The American Diary Canon / Steven E. Kagle

7. Personal Writings and the Quest of National Identity in Brazil / Sergio da Silva Barcellos

Part III: The Transformation of the Manuscript

8. The Difficult Publication History of the Diaries of Anne Frank / Suzanne L. Bunkers

9. Digitized Diary Archives / Desirée Henderson

Part IV: The Travel Diary

10. British and North American Travel Writing and the Diary / Tim Youngs

11. Travel Diaries in Australia / Agnieszka Sobocinska

12. Travel Diaries in Imperial China / James M. Hargett

Part V: The Private Diary

13. The Contemporary Personal Diary in France / Françoise Simonet-Tenant, translated by Dagmara Meijers-Troller

14. Writing the Self, Writing History in Palestine / Kimberly Katz

15. Sharing Secrets in Nineteenth-Century America / Marilyn Ferris Motz

16. The Literary Author as Diarist / Elizabeth Podnieks

Part VI: The Diary in Political Conflict

17. The American Civil War: Confederate Women's Diaries / Kimberly Harrison

18. The Archive as a Diary of Resistance: Hendrik Witbooi, Nama Revolutionary, 1884-1905 / Elizabeth Baer

19. Diary and Narrative: French Soldiers in World War I / Leonard V. Smith

20. The Stalin-Era Diary / Jochen Hellbeck

21. On Holocaust Diaries / Batsheva Ben-Amos

22. Estonian Women's Deportation Diaries / Leena Kurvet-Kosaar

Part VII: Online Diaries

23. From Puritans to Fitbit: Self-Improvement, Self-Tracking, and How to Keep a Diary / Kylie Cardell

24. Online Diaries and Blogs / Jill Walker-Rettberg

25. A Journey through Two Decades of Online Diary Community / Lena Buford

26. Geocities and Diaries on the Early Web / James Baker