[Gyokudo: Landscape (mid-19th century)]

Welcome to:

Special Topic in Comparative Literature

The University Calendar prescription runs as follows:

Crisis Diaries:
Chronicles of Heartbreak, Illness, Madness, Plague & Civil War


Radial (Suburban)




The purpose of the course is to examine a number of diaries written over the past millennium, identify their common (and divergent) features, and to examine the social and cultural means of their production. Moving from Heian Japan through the American Civil War to contemporary Europe, we will be discussing drug addiction and madness (Cocteau & Nijinsky), invalidism and disease (Daniel Defoe, Alice James & Denton Welch), near-death experiences (Douglas Mawson & Arthur Koestler), and the psychological effects of war on non-combatants (Lady Daibu, Mary Chesnut & Lydia Ginzburg).

This blog is meant to supplement the Course Anthology and Administration Guide by giving you a forum to share your discoveries and insights throughout the year.


  • Course Journal (30%)

  • Seminar (20%)

  • Creative Response (20%)

  • Research Essay (30%)

[Robert Shields: Diary (1972-1997)]

[Writer (dates): Text]:

[Tessa Morrison: The Geography of History]

[Lecture / Workshop]:

  1. Questions of Genre / Fellow Travellers
  2. Lady Daibu / The Tale of the Heike [c.1174-1232]
  3. Daniel Defoe / The Plague [1665]
  4. Mary Chesnut / A Diary from Dixie [1861-65]
  5. Alice James / Alice in Bed [1889-92]
  6. Douglas Mawson / The Home of the Blizzard [1911-14]
  7. Vaslav Nijinsky / Diary of a Madman [1919]
  8. Jean Cocteau / Diary of a Drug Fiend [1929]
  9. Arthur Koestler / Spanish Testament [1937]
  10. Lydia Ginzburg / The 900 Days [1941-44]
  11. Denton Welch / A Voice through a Cloud [1942-48]
  12. Prison Notes / Contemporary Extremities

[Mina Chapman: Girl Writing in Diary]

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