Autobiographies, Diaries, and Journals by Women Analysis

At Issue

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature, Critical Edition)

Besides capturing first-hand accounts of historical events and social issues, autobiographies, diaries, and journals provide an invaluable means of recording women’s individual viewpoints and their lives, work, thoughts, and dreams. In addition, these self-writings offer an outlet for women to oppose gender restrictions and challenge patriarchal society. Twentieth century writer Anaïs Nin, whose diary encompassed her entire literary career, believed that writing a diary helped “to make the separation between [her] real self and the role-playing a woman is called upon to do.” The diary, she asserted, kept her other self alive. Most early personal narratives tend to be partial and sketchy and to focus on spiritual crisis and conversion. Although later autobiographies, diaries, and journals carry on the spiritual tradition, most focus on secular issues: social change, political activism, and artistic and self- development. Readers tend to become more actively involved in personal writings than in fiction and tend to empathize more with the writer. This, in turn, raises consciousness and encourages change.