Department of French & Francophone Studies
An Ever-Bleeding Heart: Life Narratives in the Alsace-Lorraine Borderland, 1870-1920
Located at the intersection of modern French and Francophone historical studies, borderland studies, and life-writing studies, my dissertation focuses on the ways in which the inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine, a borderland region between France and Germany, privately expressed their reaction to the Franco-Prussian War, the annexation of their territory, and World War I between 1870 and 1920. Private writings, such as unpublished diaries memoirs and other private papers, are objects uniquely revealing of daily private life and mentalities. They allow researchers to grasp quotidian experiences, emotions, and ordinary practices that may prove otherwise elusive. Subsequently, these documents provide a “bottom-up,” microhistorical account – the necessary counterpart to historians’ previous work on the subject – uncovering an individual’s agency, including the act of writing itself. Part biographical, my dissertation first retraces the trajectories of eight individuals whose private writings constitute my corpus. In a first series of inquiries, I explore the effects of the two wars and annexation on the authors, and their representations of them. In a second series of inquiries, I examine the practice and materiality of writing itself. Ultimately, my dissertation develops a microhistorical approach to better understand the region’s experiences during a crucial period in its history; it will, therefore, contribute to the region’s local history, as well as the broader history of borderlands. Moreover, by looking at both men’s and women’s personal writings, I will further research into gendered writing practices and analyze how gender inflected wartime experiences.