Styling the self

The real muddle of autobiography

We write to know we aren’t alone. We read for the same reason: to lose ourselves in the lives of other characters; to surround ourselves with the sights and sounds of other lives; to join imagined communities we can take on as our own. All writers are lonely, and all readers too, and those of us who keep journals turn those private pages into other versions of ourselves.

Diaries allow us to practise ideal identities and to resolve future hopes and fears. On November 13th, 1949, the young writer, Sylvia Plath, set down a manifesto for her future self in the pages of her journal. She chose not to write, but to type her entry, for this was a distinctly formal arrangement with herself: a private audition for her emerging public self. Casting herself as ‘The Girl Who Would be God,’ seventeen-year-old Plath automatically grants herself the leading role in her private drama: as omniscient creator, magus and maker.

Suzie Hanna’s film,

More from this issue:

Related Videos:

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation