Diary and Diary Fiction at MLA 2015

I’ve been deep in diary research the past few weeks as I prepare a talk for MLA 2015. I organized a panel on diaries and diary fiction, and was gratified by the large number of excellent proposals I received. My fellow presenters represent a variety of critical approaches to the study of diary and diary fiction, as well as different national literary traditions and time periods. I cannot wait to hear their papers.

My own talk is a bit of a stretch for me. Here’s how it came to be:

Me (in my pajamas, reading the New York Times Book Review on a Sunday morning, circa 2013): Huh. There’s another review of another novel that prominently features a diary. Isn’t that strange? (Adds book title to growing list.) I wonder why so many contemporary novelists are relying on the diary? What does it mean? Maybe I could write a paper about this?

Well, a few years later and I’ve been reading contemporary diary fiction and hopefully by Sunday I’ll have something productive to say about a selection of these novels. I will be talking about:

Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl (2012)
Tim Parks, Sex is Forbidden (2012)
Scott Hutchins, A Working Theory of Love (2012)
Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being (2013)
Stephen Lloyd Jones, The String Diaries (2014)

One of the questions I am considering is why, although each of these novels is set in the present, none of the diary writers keeps their diaries on a computer or blog or any other digital format. While I myself am dedicated to my handwritten diary and cannot imagine typing my diary onto a screen, the common theme across the five books of eschewing available technology in favor of the old fashioned manuscript diary really interests me. I have some theories about why this is and how it impacts each novels’ representation of a diverse range of media and technologies.

Something I’ve learned working on the talk: it’s very hard to discuss five novels in 15 minutes. Hopefully the audience will be understanding about my thumbnail analysis.

Here’s the line up …

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 7.53.03 PM

Vancouver, here we come!

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