Beyond fig leaves and scarlet letters: women voicing themselves in diaries and blogs

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University of Alabama Libraries

This project explores the reasons that women write in diaries and blogs and the ways that they reckon with audience and identity through private writing in public spaces. It observes that women write to work through difficult experiences, to give substance to the tasks of impermanence that fill their days and lives, to forge connections with other women related to issues of mutual interest and concern, and to assert themselves as subjects of their own making in the face of competing social constructions of who they should be. The importance of this subject matter lies in the ways that writing is a source of strength to individuals who have been silenced or otherwise isolated through the circumstances of their lives. I have chosen to look at the value of writing for women, but the principles that I set forth are applicable to other groups of people, particularly those who have experienced marginalization or loss of some kind. The research traces the history of the diary and its significance for women, the evolution of the diary's function as it has moved online, the relationship between the diary and identity formation for its writer, and finally, the relationships between writers and their audiences, particularly with the diary in its incarnation as the blog. I develop the metaphors of fig leaves and scarlet letters to represent the ways in which women negotiate the dynamics of truth, identity, and audience in textual practice and assert that emerging technologies such as the blog allow for women to move beyond the silences that these images symbolize, create communities, and give voice to their lives.

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Language, Rhetoric and Composition, Women's studies