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?