Reviews and Reports

Sam Ferguson's Diaries Real and Fictional in Twentieth-century French Writing


  • Arnaud Schmitt University of Bordeaux



Diaries, book review


Over the last two decades, Philippe Lejeune’s research has established diary-writing as maybe the only form of life-writing immune from panfictionalism. In an oft-quoted article (Lejeune 2007), the French theorist famously expressed his fiction and autofiction fatigue (‘[…] j’ai créé “antifiction” par agacement devant “autofiction”, le mot et la chose’, 3) and set up an insurmountable ontological barrier between autobiographies and diaries: ‘autobiography has fallen under the spell of fiction, diaries are enamored with truth’ (‘[…] l’autobiographie vit sous le charme de la fiction, le journal a le béguin pour la verité’, 3).1 In his more recent book, Aux Origines du Journal Personnel: France, 1750–1815 (2016), Lejeune not only reasserted this privileged connection between diaries and truth/reality—not unlike Barthes’s claim in La Chambre claire that photography cannot be distinguished from its referent— but went as far as removing diaries from the field of literary studies as, according to him, they do not constitute a literary genre (or only as an epiphenomenon). In Diaries Real and Fictional in Twentieth-Century French Writing, Sam Ferguson opts for an altogether different approach.

Author Biography

Arnaud Schmitt, University of Bordeaux

Arnaud Schmitt is a professor at the University of Bordeaux. His field of research is American literature and he has also worked extensively on the concepts of ‘autofiction’ and ‘self-narration’. He has recently published a new book entitled The Phenomenology of Autobiography: Making it Real (Routledge, 2017) and is the corecipient (with Stefan Kjerkegaard, Aarhus University) of the 2016 Hogan Prize for an outstanding essay published in a volume of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies. He was awarded a CNRS scholarship for the academic year 2019–20 and is currently working on a new monograph on photographers who wrote memoirs.





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