The Significance of Diaries

While reading for my generals, I have been taking note of all weblog/diary related material with the intention of posting it eventually. Today I ran across an engaging quote in Yi-Fu Tuan’s paper Significance of Artifact:

Diaries retain a measure of the past in the present. First as a physical object we can see that the binding is fragile and that the pages are yellow with age. Then there is the testimony of penmanship—the way that it has changed over the years. Most important of all, obviously, are the feelings, moods, and incidents as they are captured in the entries. But how etiolated they now seem. The keeping of a diary may indeed reassure an individual that he has lived. On the other hand, the skeletal notes and the blank pages are reminders of how little of time can be salvaged by such a literary device. On April 7, 1824, Eugène Delacroix, after reading through what he had written earlier in his diary, added the following comments:

I feel that I still retain control of the days about which I have made entries, even when they are past. But as for the days which are not mentioned in the diary, it is as if they had never existed. What dark abyss has swallowed them up? Are these flimsy pages the only token I have of my past existence? And so my mind and the life history of my soul are to be destroyed because I am not willing to commit to paper that part of them which might thereby be preserved”

I wish I had more time to unpack this, but I’m a bit under the gun (oral exam in t-minus 2 weeks), but I wanted to post it before I forgot and it was lost like the rest of my existence during this busy time.