“ON VIT SI DRÔLEMENT:” LIFE WRITINGS IN THE ALSACE(-)LORRAINE BORDERLAND, 1870-1918.
At the intersection of French historical and life writing studies, my dissertation focuses on the daily lives of ordinary residents of the Franco-German borderland of Alsace(-)Lorraine between 1870 and 1918. Six unpublished life writings, uncovered in archives in France and Germany, constitute the corpus of my thesis in which I examine their authors’ experiences of two wars and subsequent sovereignty shift. These life writings reveal quotidian experiences, emotions, and practices, including the act of writing itself, which more fully account for individuals’ agency during this period. This bottom-up, microhistorical account offers a precious counterpoint to historians’ previous work on the subject which adopted a sociopolitical and military history focus. In part biographical, my research first retraces the writers’ trajectories during this period and within their sociopolitical context while also analyzing how their writing practices were inflected by questions of family, gender, and religion. I contribute to the historiography of Alsace(-)Lorraine by exploring the effects of this tumultuous period in the borderland’s history on the authors of these writings. I further engage with life writing studies by addressing methodological concerns (such as the research over traditions of gendered writing), and by sketching out new methodologies for historians working with these documents (namely, the study of transcribed life writings). Ultimately, this project aims to uncover these six individuals’ daily life experiences to contribute to the borderland’s collective biography.