Glossing the Diary: Women Writing for Posterity, the Case of Elizabeth Edgeworth (1781–1800)

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Abstract

The inclusion of paratextual apparatus within a diary, alongside attention to presentation, historical contextualisation, and the employment of textual strategies makes it clear that an audience is to the fore, particularly a future or posthumous one. Connections with posterity permit the eighteenth-century female diarist to imagine a situation whereby their diary could be a document connecting them tangentially to literary and cultural authority. Analysis of the diary of Elizabeth Edgeworth (1781–1800) permits a better understanding of the relationship between diaries and posterity; the strategies for the achievement of an audience; the methods of communication with this audience; and the role of life writing in controlling and shaping a family’s narrative and legacy. The difficulties in achieving an audience for one’s works are evident throughout Elizabeth’s diary, as she attempts to negotiate her personal environs, and add to the family record of the Edgeworths of Edgeworthstown in the wake of the 1798 Rebellion in Ireland. Elizabeth’s diary functions primarily as a public document, one that tells us much about the experience of growing up within a famous family during a pivotal time, and of one family member’s attempts to communicate and preserve a particular version of this experience for posterity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLife Writing
Early online date06 Aug 2020
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 06 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes

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