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Knowledge, the ‘Moment of Writing’ and the Simulacrum Diaries of Johanna Brandt-Van Warmelo

By Helen Dampier and Liz Stanley


Diary-writing is usually defined around assumptions about the temporal and\ud spatial circumstances of writing, which underpin what kind of knowledge\ud diaries are understood to ‘hold’. The epistemological status of diaries is rooted\ud in an assumed ontology, concerning the time/space of their writing and the\ud temporal location of their writer in relation to the ‘entries’ written in them.\ud This paper explores ‘what happens’ to the knowledge a diary is seen to hold\ud when its ontological basis is disturbed by its assumed ‘present-ness’ being\ud shown to be an artful (mis)representation. The case study discussed concerns\ud the published diary Het Concentratie-Kamp van Irene [The Irene\ud Concentration Camp] (1905), and also the manuscript diary, and the letters\ud written concurrently with the preparation of the former for publication, of a\ud South African woman, Johanna Van Warmelo (her pre-marriage name). The\ud diary deals with the author’s experiences of six weeks spent as a volunteer\ud worker in Irene concentration camp during the 1899-1902 South African War.\ud In the secondary literature, knowledge-claims about the Van Warmelo diary\ud not only assume referentiality but also the temporal interrelationship of ‘the\ud moment of writing’ with ‘the scene of what is written about’. In particular, the\ud assumption is that the time of its writing, narrative time in a diary-entry, and\ud the temporal location of the writer in relation to the diary-entries, are all ‘of the\ud moment’. However, important temporal disjunctures exist between the\ud manuscript and the published diary. Detailed examples of this are examined by\ud unpacking the ‘moments of writing’ of the manuscript and the published diary,\ud by reference to family letters written by Brandt-Van Warmelo (her postmarriage\ud name) over the period the diary was being prepared for publication.\ud In doing so, we develop the idea of a ‘simulacrum diary’ in thinking about the\ud relationship between the published and manuscript diaries and the complexities of their moments of writing

Topics: BF
Publisher: University of Huddersfield
Year: 2006
OAI identifier:

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