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Writing And Measuring Time: Nineteenth-Century French Teenagers’ Diaries

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Chapter Summary

In the nineteenth century in France, middle-class teenagers were often encouraged to keep a diary for pedagogical reasons. They wrote about three dimensions of time - past, present and future - in a form which is traditionally devoted to the inscription of the present. Through the use of several examples, this chapter discusses how some diarists used the medium creatively to free themselves from the constraints of their everyday lives. First, it considers how the inscription and measurement of time by these nineteenth-century diarists can be read as a way to control the time of writing. Next, it concentrates on how diaries helped them to organize the time of their daily lives. Finally, it shows how these young writers tried to liberate themselves from the chronological restraints of diaristic protocol. These diaries reveal a search for free space where the control of time symbolizes a desire for illusory emancipation.

Keywords: control time; diaries; diarists; everyday lives; French teenagers; liberate; measuring time; organize the time; writing



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