“This is not an autobiography”: how writing the self shaped the life of Dorothy Day

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Keynote lecture presented to APEAA, 01-03 June 2023, Culture(s) of the Self. Abstract:
In her first autobiographical text, From Union Square to Rome (1938), Dorothy Day stated, at the outset, “this is not an autobiography”. Yet, she felt the need to explain, in writing, for herself and for others, the steps of the path that led towards her conversion into the Catholic Church. Before From Union Square to Rome she had published a thinly disguised autobiographical novel The Eleventh Virgin (1922) and afterwards she published the well-known autobiography The Long Loneliness (1952). Meanwhile, and until her death in 1980, she wrote diaries, letters, five books on the subjects close to her heart and her life work, and contributed to several newspapers, namely the one she co-founded in 1933, The Catholic Worker.
Taking Dorothy Day as the centre around which my view on “Culture(s) of the Self” will revolve, I will endeavour to explain how autobiography was fundamental for her to achieve self-knowledge at a turning point in her life, how knowledge of her own self was always incomplete and in the making, and how the Socratic injunction “know thyself” paved the way to a life of full commitment to others and to the achievement of a kind of wisdom which was both speculative and very practical, based on love. Dorothy Day’s life and achievements raise issues that have not lost their relevance in the third decade of the 21st. century.

Period1 Jun 2023
Event title43.º Encontro da Associação Portuguesa de Estudos Anglo-Americanos
Event typeConference
LocationLisbon, PortugalShow on map