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Do Peasants Write Ego-Documents?

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The ‘ordinary exception’ of Luigi Daldosso in the First World War

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Do peasants write ego-documents? We do find diaries and autobiographies written by peasants in modern Europe. But an autobiography is not necessarily an ego-document, if it reveals little about the ego and is very short on introspection. Peasant writings were characterized by their terse style, and their pragmatic concerns with the state of the harvest and the price of essential goods. They did not usually focus on the self.My article argues that the label ‘ego-document’ has been too freely applied to writings ‘from below’. I briefly discuss some issues in the study of life writing, and present a remarkable exception to the rule of peasant writings: the case of the autodidact Luigi Daldosso. Daldosso was an ‘ordinary exception’: he was an ordinary writer of humble social origins who practised literary and compositional skills rarely found amongst peasant authors.

Affiliations: 1: University of New South Wales SydneyAustralia


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