Do Peasants Write Ego-Documents?

The ‘ordinary exception’ of Luigi Daldosso in the First World War

in Quaerendo
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Do peasants write ego-documents? We do find diaries and autobiographies written by peasants in modern Europe. But an autobiography is not necessarily an ego-document, if it reveals little about the ego and is very short on introspection. Peasant writings were characterized by their terse style, and their pragmatic concerns with the state of the harvest and the price of essential goods. They did not usually focus on the self.

My article argues that the label ‘ego-document’ has been too freely applied to writings ‘from below’. I briefly discuss some issues in the study of life writing, and present a remarkable exception to the rule of peasant writings: the case of the autodidact Luigi Daldosso. Daldosso was an ‘ordinary exception’: he was an ordinary writer of humble social origins who practised literary and compositional skills rarely found amongst peasant authors.

Do Peasants Write Ego-Documents?

The ‘ordinary exception’ of Luigi Daldosso in the First World War

in Quaerendo

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References

2

Rudolf Dekker‘Jacques Presser’s Heritage: Egodocuments in the Study of History’Memoria y civilización5 (2002) p. 14.

9

Ingrid Markussen‘The Development of Writing Ability in the Nordic Countries in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’Scandinavian Journal of History15 (1990) p. 63.

16

Kaspar von Greyerz‘Ego-Documents: The Last Word?’German History28 (2010) pp. 273-82.

26

Cochet op. cit. (n. 25) p. 46.

32

As cited by James Amelang‘Presentación’Cultura escrita y sociedad1 (2005) p. 17; see also Rudolf Dekker ‘Introduction’ in: Egodocuments and History: Autobiographical Writing in its Social Context since the Middle Ages ed. R. Dekker (Hilversum 2002) pp. 7-20.

33

Baggerman art. cit. (n. 4) pp. 464-7.

35

Von Greyerz art. cit. (n. 16) p. 280.

43

Simonet-Tenant op. cit. (n. 31) pp. 36-7; Martyn Lyons ‘Reading Practices Writing Practices: Intimate Writings in Nineteenth-Century France’ in Martyn Lyons Reading Cultures and Writing Practices in Nineteenth-Century France (Toronto 2008) p. 169.

59

Antonelli art. cit. (n. 50) pp. 239-47.

64

Ibid.1.11.1915: ‘Le piante prive delle loro frondi protendono gli nudi rami quasi a infondere nel cuore un senso di mestizia. Sorge un giorno privo di luce una pioggerella fina e tagliente fende l’aria e già il bianco candore della neve imbianca le circostanti cime dei monti. Tutto tutto parla al cuore umano di mestizia e d’abbandono.’

65

Ibid.31.12.1915.

66

Ibid.28.3.1916.

67

Ibid.3.1.1916.

68

Ibid.3.3.1916: ‘Stavo scrivendo e gia la nastolgia (sic) della libertà e della patria s’era di nuovo impossessata della mia fantasia ma il fischio che chiama al secondo rancio mi strappa brutalmente alle mie intime gioie chiamandomi alla nera realtà.’

69

Ibid.22.4.1916.

Figures

  • View in gallery
    Unorthodox writing genres: an illustrated list of ‘The Soldier’s Desires’, from the song book (canzoniere) of Giacomo Ghezzi, a soldier from the Trentino who served in the Austrian army, 1912-14 – Archivio della Scrittura Popolare, Museo Storico di Trento (asp Trento).
  • View in gallery
    Photo of Luigi Daldosso – Archivio della Scrittura Popolare, Museo Storico di Trento (asp Trento).
  • View in gallery
    Postcard received in January 1916 by Daldosso as a pow in Pinerolo, showing the censor’s stamp: ‘When will I receive your news?’ – asp Trento.

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