Writing the Self

Many people write diaries, journals, logs, and so on. Most write for their own purposes — keeping records, expressing emotions, exploring ideas, and exploring writing are all done by journal keepers. To read someone else’s journal is to enter in some way into the writer’s experience, especially if the writer did not intend her journals to be read. The diary or journal becomes a kind of mirror for the writer’s self, and, unlike a literal mirror, the diary retains an impression of what it reflects.
On September 7 and 8 of this year, Dr. Anne Cotterill, Associate Professor of English and Technical Communication, attended a conference at Princeton that explored this topic. The conference focused on Elizabeth Isham, a 17th century diarist.
Dr. Cotterill presented a paper on Saturday, September 8, along with a young man named Isaac Stephens, a graduate student in history whose almost-completed dissertation concerns this memoir and this woman and her family. They are the two scholars who’ve been working the longest on Elizabeth Isham and her text. Dr. Cotterill’s paper was taken from a longer piece she’s written on Elizabeth’s memoir, entitled, "Fitting Words at the ‘pitts brinke’: The Achievement of Elizabeth Isham." Dr. Cotterill plans to send the longer article to The Huntingdon Library Quarterly.