Who’s journal is it anyway? Private vs. Public: On Reading Dracula

A Page from Samantha Baffoni’s Journal

29 March. Providence.— After leaving work last night, I was totally unsure about what could be said in this electronic journal entry. Then, I thought about journal entries. Why do people keep journals, and when these journals are made public (mind you it is a total invasion of privacy when journals are made public, but are journals written with the possibility in mind that it very well could be made public?), like Jonathan Harker’s journal, is information that is shared in the journals beneficial to the general public? In short, what I really am trying to say, why is it important to publicize the private journals of people, and do the people who keep journals feel that this publication is an invasion of their privacy? Is any writing ever really private (I wonder what Derrida would say about this)?

I am not sure I have any answers for the above questions, but what I have realized is a bit unnerving. In thinking about the tension between public and private, in regards to journals (or letters for that matter), I wonder if the diaries I kept as a young girl, detailing my most embarrassing and sacred moments of childhood, could some day be publicized for the simple fact that the journals re-count, re-tell, record, information that might be useful to the general public? Ah, there it is, that word record. It is that exact little word that brought me to think about why Bram Stoker decided to format Dracula into a series of journal entries and letters.

The journal, the diary, the letter, all personal and certainly private modes of correspondence all share one important commonality, don’t they? The written correspondence is a record, an archive, one that had the author’s intention (probably or in most cases) of remaining private. This intended privacy is exactly what I think makes the record of these correspondences so useful to the public. These intimate correspondences are often quite telling of the time and place in which they were written, because of the fact that they are intended to be private often the author is able to be totally open and honest when writing in this mode. As opposed to a historical text, the journal or letter is not intended to be publicized, whereas a historical text may not always be as reliable because it had the very intention of being published in order recount the events of a period of time.

I digress… Bram Stoker’s Dracula portrays the exact debate I am having with myself in this journal entry. Although, Dracula, is formatted as a series of different written correspondences, in which this debate plays out. The tension between private and public in regards to written correspondences is not lost on Stoker. Lucy and Mina discuss the privacy of Harker’s journal, and it is Mina who decides to respect the author’s intended privacy. Why then, does Van Helsing feel compelled to ultimately publicize the journal? And again, the only answer I have for this is that little word I mentioned before, record. Harker’s journal is a re-counting, re-telling, a record of his experiences at Dracula’s castle. Harker’s journal acts as an archive in which the public (Mina, Van Helsing, etc…) can acquire information that may benefit them. Although written correspondences, whether they be journals or letters, are intended by the authors or those who are corresponding to be private, the opposite is often true. I wonder now, are people who keep journals or share written correspondences aware of the fact that their privacy will likely be invaded and their correspondences publicized? Is that why we have resorted to publicizing them anyway? Do people keep journals any more, or do they just write in these open journal forums we call blogs? Is there a difference between a blog and a journal (I’m not sure there is)? Lastly, I wonder if many years from now historians or scholars will look back at these open journal forums in hopes of acquiring some beneficial information? I’m curious to hear what you all think about this.

Again, I apologize for being a “faux-bond” yesterday. As much as I wish I could rebuke all responsibility and live like Emerson in the woods, a girl has got to eat. I hope you all understand. Happy weekend. PS: Does this closing note addressing my audience destroy the fact that I tried to make this look like a journal entry? What’s so private about a journal anyway?




Maybe we should be more like Elizabeth I

To my extraordinary fellow students and professor, Ann-Kathrin exhaustingly presents you this week’s blog.

I want to talk about the various salutation which show not only the hierarchy between the writer of the letters and their recipients but also changes in her career.

Each letter is addressed to someone, where their name and rank are stated. In addition the addresses also include adjectives concerned with the recipient. Mostly also the writer, Elizabeth, is included. I thought that was very fascinating.

Elizabeth’s letter to her mother Queen Katherine include both in its address. Additionally the address states the main focus of the letter: “To the most high, most illustrious and magnanimous Princess Katherine, queen of England, France, and Ireland, Elizabeth, her most humble daughter, gives greeting and due obedience” (10). It does not include either an additional salutation nor closing. The letters to her father, King Edward, don’t include Elizabeth in the address, lack a salutation, but do have a closing: “[Addressed] To the most illustrious and most nobel King Edward the Sixth … Your majesty’s most humble daughter, Elizabeth” (14-15). Then we have several letters for Lord Edward Seymour and Elizabeth’s sister Mary which include both a salutation and closing. Those are also a lot more personal than the ones sent to her parents. Is this inclusion or exclusion of salutations a way to show subordination and respect?

After Elizabeth became queen the addresses and salutations changed. The letters were now signed at the beginning of the letter, with a combination of Elizabeth R, Elizabeth Regina, or “By the queen” (205). Only more personal letters or ones to friends still had a salutation and a closing. Again, this seems like a power shift, an indication of hierarchy established through a simple address.

The only letters missing any kind mentioning of royalty seem to be the ones to the duke of Anjou/Alençon. But then again they were love letters, which, at least, in my mind had to be distinctly different than those to family or subordinates.

Does anyone else think it is sad that we today have lost the “ability” to greet someone when writing to them? Not that we should show any kind of hierarchy, but so many forms of communications have lost any sense of address/salutation/closing. I have observed how I communicate through different social media modes the last two days and I do have admit that I sometimes forgo a simple “Dear …” or “Hello …,” I mean they do know I am writing to them why do I have to emphasis it (how horrible!)? Sign an email? How redundant, they recipient knows who the email is from right? But then some modes of communication are not made to be personal anymore, yes I am talking about you, twitter.

Your humble blogger, Ann-Kathrin


On Friendship

In De Amicitia, Cicero claims to be reconstructing the thoughts of Laelius on the topic of friendship, and Peabody, at least, thinks that Cicero was honest to his source: “Laelius is here made to say not a word which he, being the man that he was, and at the date assumed for this dialouge, might not have said himself.” (vi) Still, over 80 years have passed between the actual composition of De Amicitia and the time of the dialogue when takes place, and despite the direct line of mentorship that binds Cicero to Laelius (through Scaevola, who has a place in the dialogue), it seems an unusual choice to make. Certainly the Republic had seen changes that must have seemed significant to Cicero, especially since he was at the political heart of some of them as consul.

But Cicero feels himself, in his address to Atticus, that he has successfully faded into the background: “this method of treatment, resting on the authority of men of an earlier generation, and illustrious in their time, seems somehow to be of specially commanding influence […] I want you for the while to turn your mind away from me, and to imagine that it is Laelius who is speaking.” (4)

Two avenues of inquiry to pursue come to my mind: the first is the interesting parallel of boyhood friendship that runs between Cicero and Laelius. Laelius claims that “the older a friendship is, the more precious should it be” (50), but also reminisces about Scipio’s claims of “the most ardent loves of boyhood being often laid aside with its robe” (28), and says too that “friendships that are properly so called are formed between persons of mature years and established character” (53). Yet Laelius and Scipio Africanus were friends since boyhood, as were Cicero and Atticus whom he is corresponding with: in a manuscript full of philosophies on friendship that seem today almost common-sense or platitudinous, the gap there is interesting. Perhaps Laelius considered himself particularly lucky (or particularly virtuous?) to maintain the longstanding friendship he had with Scipio — and it is interesting too that he’s quoting Scipio when he talks about how friendships are hard to maintain.

The second thing I’m thinking about in relation to Cicero and Laelius is the image of Socrates and plato that we’ve been seeing on the cover of Derrida. We’ve discussed, a bit, the potential gap between the scriptor vs. the author of a particular text, and how the person writing down the dialogue can, in some ways, exert final control over the thoughts of the mentor figure they’re recording. Cicero draws attention to this in a way that Plato (or at least Derrida’s p/Plato) never does; I’d be interested in hearing (in comments or in class) whether this rhetorical move makes us feel more or less concerned/aware of the gap between the speaker and the writer.  I suppose in a way this question is at the heart of most epistolary literature.

I also like how Cicero talks about his Cato Major, written around the same time, and talks about how he chose “the old man Cato” because “there seemed to be no other person better fitted to talk about old age than one who had been an aged man so long” (3) — even though at this point Cicero himself is getting up there in years, so that “I then wrote as an old man to an old man about old age” (4). Since both Cicero and Atticus are aging, it feels particularly poignant when Laelius discusses his loss of Scipio: “I can miss his society but for a brief season, and all sorrows, however heavy, if they can last but a little while, ought to be endured.” (71)

It lends an interesting twist too, I suppose to Laelius’s aside to Fannius and Scaevola on their own friendship: “With this affection I in my youth loved those old men, […]in my turn, as an old man, I find repose in the attachment of young men, as in yours” (70). There’s a nice feeling of continuity there, and maybe that sense of continuity is something Cicero is particularly encouraging in order to justify his own use of previous generations in epistolary literature.