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"Self-exploration and Self-justification in Writing – Diaries and Autofiction"

Joachim Grage, Freiburg

This project examines the connection between Protestant self-justification and self-reflection in diary writing. Influenced by Pietistic imperatives of self-observation and need for daily assurances of faith, this genre is characterized by a kind of self-optimization, which is both religious and economic in nature. In offering a daily account of what the writer has done and earned, it expresses the intimate connection between the Protestant work ethic and the capitalist spirit discovered by Weber.

To investigate the genre, my starting point will be Søren Kierkegaard's journals and notes, where Protestant self-reflection both motivates the writing and appears as its result. Kierkegaard’s journals will then serve as a reference point to explore other texts, from Strindberg's and Garbog's diaries, written during the early phase of literary modernism, to more recent publications, such as the contemporary diaristic literature of Norén and Espedal, and the autofictional literature of Knausgaard, Espedal, and Beck-Nielsen.

My analysis will pay particular attention to the action-character of writing and to the reality-generating power of literature. With reference to Jon Helt Haarder's concept of "performativ biografisme" (Haarder 2014), I will focus on the way in which authors are both acting and reflecting when part of their own works, exploring how such self-fashioning, seen especially in autofiction, relates to religious practices of inwardness and prayer.

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