Identity and Writing in the Diaries of Plath and Woolf: Defining, Abjectifying, and Recovering the Self


  • Christie Mills Jeansonne Louisiana State University



Diary, trauma, identity, mental illness


The ordering, de-abjectifying function of language is often harnessed by the diary writer: re-living and re-writing a fictive self through diary writing allows the writer control and understanding of the self which has experienced and then changed in the interval of time between the event, the recording, and the rereading. The diaries of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf lend credence to this possibility of recovering abject identity through language. Their diary accounts of mental illness wield mastery over their experiences and emotional responses by choosing to recount them (or not). My paper seeks to reveal how Plath’s and Woolf’s distancing and retelling does not simply divide their selves (the pre- and post- trauma selves, the physical and textual selves), but allows them a greater range of movement, enabling mediation and reconciliation of many self-identities from the past, present, and future, and granting the authority to narrate their own continuums of becoming.


This article was submitted to the EJLW on 13 October 2013 and  published on 13 October 2014.

Author Biography

Christie Mills Jeansonne, Louisiana State University

Christie Mills Jeansonne is a New Orleans native and second year PhD student at Louisiana State University majoring in rhetoric and Victorian literature. She recently studied Plath’s early diaries at the Lilly Library, Indiana University, on an Everett Helm Visiting Fellowship. Her interests include diary studies, the criminal as artist in literature, and the rhetorics of trauma.