We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

On Diary

Philippe Lejeune

Publication Year: 2009

On Diary is the second collection in English of the groundbreaking and profoundly influential work of one of the best-known and provocative theorists of autobiography and diary. Ranging from the diary’s historical origins to its pervasive presence on the Internet, from the spiritual journey of the sixteenth century to the diary of Anne Frank, and from the materials and methods of diary writing to the question of how diaries end, these essays display Philippe Lejeune’s expertise, eloquence, passion, and humor as a commentator on the functions, practices, and significance of keeping or reading a diary. Lejeune is a leading European critic and theorist of diary and autobiography. His landmark essay, "The Autobiographical Pact," has shaped life writing studies for more than thirty years, and his many books and essays have repeatedly opened up new vistas for scholarship. As Michael Riffaterre notes, "Lejeune’s work on autobiography is the most original, powerful, effective approach to a difficult subject. . . . His style is very personal, lively. It grabs the reader as scholarship rarely does. Lejeune’s erudition and methodology are impeccable." Two substantial introductory essays by Jeremy Popkin and Julie Rak place Lejeune’s work within its critical and theoretical traditions and comment on his central importance within the fields of life writing, literary genetic studies, and cultural studies.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (34.2 KB)
pp. v-vi

We would like to thank Philippe Lejeune, first of all, for inspiring this project and for working with us to bring it to completion. Craig Howes enthusiastically arranged the publication of the volume in the University...


read more

Philippe Lejeune, Explorer of the Diary

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.0 KB)
pp. 1-15

Philippe Lejeune hardly looks like an explorer. He has no hiking boots, carries no bushwhacking equipment, and maintains that he does not even like to travel. Like the French coureurs des bois, the intrepid French voyagers who made their way into the interior of North America in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, however, Lejeune cannot resist...

read more

Dialogue with the Future: Philippe Lejeune's Method and Theory of Diary

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.8 KB)
pp. 16-26

have never had coffee with Philippe Lejeune. I have never even met him. I saw him once, reading a marvelous paper that became the essay "How Do Diaries End?"Until now, that essay was one of the few glimpses...

Part I. Introduction

read more

The Practice of the Private Journal: Chronicle of an Investigation (1986-1998)

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.9 KB)
pp. 29-48

For twelve years now I've been investigating the reasons why, For twelve years now I've been investigating the reasons why, and the ways in which, so many "ordinary" people, who are not writers, write a diary. This investigation has given rise to about thirty publications of different varieties. Today I feel that I have reached a conclusion. Here I intend to go back over my research by telling its story. This narrative will thus form, essentially, a sort of auto-bibliography. References...

Part II. The Diary: Origins

read more

Counting and Managing

pdf iconDownload PDF (77.9 KB)
pp. 51-60

The diary, like writing itself, was born of the needs of commerce and administration. In business, it is important to keep track of transactions and to know the status of your inventory. Which means making a record and dating it. Accounting serves two purposes: an internal purpose (business management based on full and accurate information)...

read more

Spiritual Journals in France from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries

pdf iconDownload PDF (112.6 KB)
pp. 61-78

The research I am sketching out here broadly covers the intersection between two sets of texts: 1) the "journal" or "diary" form, defined as a series of dated traces; that is, a practice of making notations extended over time...

read more

On Today's Date

pdf iconDownload PDF (97.9 KB)
pp. 79-92

One should never start the New Year without plans, even modest ones. For some time now I have been thinking of doing a bit of research on the dating of diaries. And, for that matter, on dating things in general. It has probably already been done. I imagine...

read more

O My Paper!

pdf iconDownload PDF (82.3 KB)
pp. 93-101

When did it become possible to address personal writings to the physical medium on which they are written? When did "Dear Diary" begin to be used as the heading for a journal entry?...

read more

Marc-Antoine Jullien: Controlling Time

pdf iconDownload PDF (185.2 KB)
pp. 102-121

What use have you made of the last twenty-four hours? Could you say how long you have spent on each of your activities? Try hard to remember and give a precise figure for each of them, with the help of an analytical classification of the various types of activities...

read more

Writing While Walking

pdf iconDownload PDF (64.7 KB)
pp. 122-128

Little, if anything, is remembered about Pierre-Hyacinthe Azais (1766-1845). He gained some notoriety for his philosophical treatise Des compensations dans les destinées humaines (1809). After 1850, he was forgotten. Only Pyrenees enthusiasts occasionally remembered him long enough...

read more

The "Journal de Jeune Fille"; in Nineteenth-Century France

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.1 KB)
pp. 129-144

Matten: Saturday, August 1, 1992. I am late. I feel somewhat guilty and embarrassed. I have been working on this subject for more than a year. I have conceived the book I am about to publish...

Part III. The Diary: Theory

read more

The Diary on Trial

pdf iconDownload PDF (125.0 KB)
pp. 147-167

Turn the page and read the indictment. It seems the diary is unwholesome, hypocritical, cowardly, worthless, artificial, sterile, shriveling, feminine, etc. You are horrified at first. It makes you want to fly to the defense of the poor diary, as though someone were being mugged on the street right in front of you...

read more

Composing a Diary

pdf iconDownload PDF (64.8 KB)
pp. 168-174

What is a diary? I studied the genre for more than a dozen years before it occurred to me to define it. I know very well what a diary is! I kept one as a young man, between the ages of fi fteen and twenty-five. I stopped for a quarter century, and when I reached my fifties, I started up again...

read more

The Continuous and the Discontinuous

pdf iconDownload PDF (84.2 KB)
pp. 175-186

"The continuous and the discontinuous": I am going to focus my thoughts on the personal diary, and goodness knows, I feel as intimidated as when I was a teenager assigned an exam question with just fifteen minutes to produce something presentable. Zeno comes to my rescue first...

read more

How Do Diaries End?

pdf iconDownload PDF (103.3 KB)
pp. 187-200

The question occurred to me in 1997 as I was preparing an exhibit called Un Journal a soi [A diary of one's own], created by the Association pour l'Autobiographie at the Lyon public library (Lejeune and Bogaert). My approach was didactic: I wanted to construct a story...

read more

The Diary as "Antifiction"

pdf iconDownload PDF (78.3 KB)
pp. 201-210

I've just Googled the word "antifiction" and found that it's free, at least for literary theory. A hip-hop group has staked a claim, but that's it. No competition. These days, the minute you invent a word, you have to take out a patent. Serge Doubrovsky thought...

Part IV. The Diary: Practices

read more

Auto-Genesis: Genetic Studies of Autobiographical Texts

pdf iconDownload PDF (117.2 KB)
pp. 213-236

How does one become a "geneticist?" Why didn't I become one earlier? And have I really become one? It is a fact that for nearly five years I have been working on the avant-textes of contemporary autobiographies...

read more

How Anne Frank Rewrote the Diary of Anne Frank

pdf iconDownload PDF (191.3 KB)
pp. 237-266

Almost everyone has read the Diary of Anne Frank. But who really knows the story of the text? It is at once awful, complicated, beautiful, and paradoxical. Awful because the violence of History, which killed Anne, also had its effect on her text...

read more

Surveying Diaries, Surveying Cultures

pdf iconDownload PDF (92.0 KB)
pp. 267-279

I am honored by being asked to speak at a conference in Algiers on autobiography and life writing in Algeria. I cannot claim to know very much about these kinds of writing in Algeria, but it is an opportunity to think about the methods I have used in studying the diary in France, and the extent to which they might be applied in countries with very different cultures...

read more

The Diary on the Computer

pdf iconDownload PDF (129.5 KB)
pp. 280-298

My apartment is a typewriter graveyard. Here are my two Olivetti Lettera 32s, the ones I started out with in the seventies. They were like Chinese bicycles- simple, mechanical, and portable...

read more

Diaries on the Internet: A Year of Reading

pdf iconDownload PDF (124.8 KB)
pp. 299-316

From October 1999 to October 2000 I did a study of a phenomenon that was just beginning to appear in the French-speaking world: online diaries. Today, in 2008, given the explosion of blogs...

read more

Journals of Exploration

pdf iconDownload PDF (66.1 KB)
pp. 317-323


read more

Rereading Your Diary

pdf iconDownload PDF (54.9 KB)
pp. 324-326

Yes, you write your diary for yourself, and that is what makes it private. You are fifteen years old, writing for a future self whom you do not know, who will be someone different, but who you nonetheless trust. You put yourself in the hands of the stranger you will become...

Part V. Conclusion

read more

Lucullus Dines with Lucullus

pdf iconDownload PDF (65.5 KB)
pp. 329-336

I have been fascinated by Lucullus since I was a boy, and I thought of him the moment I was invited to this colloquium. Lucullus was a Roman general who fought against Mithradates, was a rival of Sylla, and had the wisdom not to seek supreme power when he returned...

Selected Works of Philippe Lejeune

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.5 KB)
pp. 337-342

Name Index

pdf iconDownload PDF (49.7 KB)
pp. 343-351

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863784
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824833886

Publication Year: 2009