Welcome to The Valve
Login
Register


Valve Links

The Front Page
Statement of Purpose

John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
Jonathan Goodwin
Joseph Kugelmass
Lawrence LaRiviere White
Marc Bousquet
Matt Greenfield
Miriam Burstein
Ray Davis
Rohan Maitzen
Sean McCann
Guest Authors

Laura Carroll
Mark Bauerlein
Miriam Jones

Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Advanced Search

Articles
RSS 1.0 | RSS 2.0 | Atom

Comments
RSS 1.0 | RSS 2.0 | Atom

XHTML | CSS

Powered by Expression Engine
Logo by John Holbo

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

 


Blogroll

2blowhards
About Last Night
Academic Splat
Acephalous
Amardeep Singh
Beatrice
Bemsha Swing
Bitch. Ph.D.
Blogenspiel
Blogging the Renaissance
Bookslut
Booksquare
Butterflies & Wheels
Cahiers de Corey
Category D
Charlotte Street
Cheeky Prof
Chekhov’s Mistress
Chrononautic Log
Cliopatria
Cogito, ergo Zoom
Collected Miscellany
Completely Futile
Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind
Conversational Reading
Critical Mass
Crooked Timber
Culture Cat
Culture Industry
CultureSpace
Early Modern Notes
Easily Distracted
fait accompi
Fernham
Ferule & Fescue
Ftrain
GalleyCat
Ghost in the Wire
Giornale Nuovo
God of the Machine
Golden Rule Jones
Grumpy Old Bookman
Ideas of Imperfection
Idiocentrism
Idiotprogrammer
if:book
In Favor of Thinking
In Medias Res
Inside Higher Ed
jane dark’s sugarhigh!
John & Belle Have A Blog
John Crowley
Jonathan Goodwin
Kathryn Cramer
Kitabkhana
Languagehat
Languor Management
Light Reading
Like Anna Karina’s Sweater
Lime Tree
Limited Inc.
Long Pauses
Long Story, Short Pier
Long Sunday
MadInkBeard
Making Light
Maud Newton
Michael Berube
Moo2
MoorishGirl
Motime Like the Present
Narrow Shore
Neil Gaiman
Old Hag
Open University
Pas au-delà
Philobiblion
Planned Obsolescence
Printculture
Pseudopodium
Quick Study
Rake’s Progress
Reader of depressing books
Reading Room
ReadySteadyBlog
Reassigned Time
Reeling and Writhing
Return of the Reluctant
S1ngularity::criticism
Say Something Wonderful
Scribblingwoman
Seventypes
Shaken & Stirred
Silliman’s Blog
Slaves of Academe
Sorrow at Sills Bend
Sounds & Fury
Splinters
Spurious
Stochastic Bookmark
Tenured Radical
the Diaries of Franz Kafka
The Elegant Variation
The Home and the World
The Intersection
The Litblog Co-Op
The Literary Saloon
The Literary Thug
The Little Professor
The Midnight Bell
The Mumpsimus
The Pinocchio Theory
The Reading Experience
The Salt-Box
The Weblog
This Public Address
This Space: The Fire’s Blog
Thoughts, Arguments & Rants
Tingle Alley
Uncomplicatedly
Unfogged
University Diaries
Unqualified Offerings
Waggish
What Now?
William Gibson
Wordherders

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Susan Sontag’s Diaries: on the Need for Egotism

Posted by Amardeep Singh on 09/14/06 at 03:33 PM

Excerpts from Susan Sontag’s journal were in this past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. The highlight for me was the following section from early in the portion of the journal (1958) included in the NYTM:

Why is writing important? Mainly, out of egotism, I suppose. Because I want to be that persona, a writer, and not because there is something I must say. Yet why not that too? With a little ego-building — such as the fait accompli this journal provides — I shall win through to the confidence that I (I) have something to say, that should be said.

My “I” is puny, cautious, too sane. Good writers are roaring egotists, even to the point of fatuity. Sane men, critics, correct them — but their sanity is parasitic on the creative fatuity of genius. (link)

The “creative fatuity of genius”; I think she might be thinking of Norman Mailer. Here one can’t help but think Sontag is criticizing the discourse of “genius” even as she’s aspiring to join the club. I also find it intriguing that Sontag writes about discovering and reading the diary of her friend (and lover, I believe), Harriet Sohmers—where she’s found a very unflattering post entry on herself:

Confessions, I mean sincere confessions of course, can be more shallow than actions. I am thinking now of what I read today (when I went up to 122 Bd. St-G to check for her mail) in H’s journal about me — that curt, unfair, uncharitable assessment of me which concludes by her saying that she really doesn’t like me but my passion for her is acceptable and opportune. God knows it hurts, and I feel indignant and humiliated. We rarely do know what people think of us (or, rather, think they think of us).. . .Do I feel guilty about reading what was not intended for my eyes? No. One of the main (social) functions of a journal or diary is precisely to be read furtively by other people, the people (like parents + lovers) about whom one has been cruelly honest only in the journal. Will H. ever read this? (link)

In short, no “confession” is ever sincere. And diaries are always meant for other eyes: either to be discovered by the subjects under discussion, or (since the diarist presumes she will be famous, and in this case she will be) the general public. Anonymous blogging is somewhat similar, I think: one unconsciously wants to be found out.


Comments

I wonder, has anyone done a history of diary writing (in the West)?

By Bill Benzon on 09/14/06 at 05:15 PM | Permanent link to this comment

A good question—I’ve not seen one, though I think most people would say it starts with Samuel Pepys. As for why him exactly, and why then (the 1660s), that I don’t know.

It definitely seems to be associated with the modern idea of a split between public and private realms. It also goes with the idea of the act of writing as something that happens privately, even if the output of that writing is going to be public.

By Amardeep Singh on 09/14/06 at 05:43 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Past Author Ray Davis draws our attention to an interesting example & has some thoughts.

<a href="http://www.pseudopodium.org/ht-20041224.html#2005-01-16">link<>

By Lawrence LaRiviere White on 09/14/06 at 09:23 PM | Permanent link to this comment

The most visited area of the Repress, however, is the illustrated Diary of a Nobody.

I wonder, has anyone done a history of diary writing (in the West)?

I’d love pointers to a good book or two on the subject. Casual browsing’s led me to believe something happened Europe-wide in the mid-seventeenth century—in other words, after the evolution of the essay. Letters, diaries, and memoirs after that date seem more vivid than earlier examples, as if their writers’ features had suddenly snapped into focus. Perhaps the energy had previously been directed exclusively towards less secular or more commercial ends?

The old Cambridge History suggests a similar story. not mentioning much about diaries or letters until the Civil War, and only really giving them space in the Restoration.

It might just be a matter of what’s been available to me, though. Despite their literary, historical, psychological, you know, human interest, diaries and letters don’t get much institutional respect. To cite a 1997 note on Mr. Barbellion’s own favorite diarist. Marie Bashkirtseff: “Readers will eagerly anticipate the next volume, whose publication is not yet scheduled.”

By Ray Davis on 09/16/06 at 12:00 PM | Permanent link to this comment

On more or less general principle I’d suspect a post-Cartesian flourishing of diaries.

By Bill Benzon on 09/16/06 at 05:29 PM | Permanent link to this comment

"And diaries are always meant for other eyes: either to be discovered by the subjects under discussion, or (since the diarist presumes she will be famous, and in this case she will be) the general public. Anonymous blogging is somewhat similar, I think: one unconsciously wants to be found out.”

I will agree in part that the diarist wants his/her writings looked upon by someone other than him/herself, but I’m not sure fame is the necessary motive.  Sontag states that writers are egotistical, but not all diarists are writers in the sense I think she alludes.  Two examples that came immediately to mind were penultimate diary of the 20th Century, The Diary of Anne Frank, and the lesser-known Zlata’s Diary, written by a young girl during the Bosnian-Serbian war in the 1990s.  My argument is psychological: perhaps diarists write out the realization that a particular situation they enduring is more than their own selves can bear, therefore they “put it out there” for others to deal with as they (the others) stumble across it.  The whole “Dear Diary” idea is fraught with implications of a reliance on a separate therapeutic identity, “Diary” really being whoever is nosy enough to discover what’s wrong. 

I would argue that “anonymous blogging” is really not a suitable term, given that most bloggers tack on a pseudonym to their real persona, in a sense creating a separate identity (e.g. I’m not “Greg” per se, but “kittycat69” or some other hideous attachment) that actively seeks readers while putting a barrier up to the blogger’s true identity (otherwise, why the pseudonym?).  It’s too coy, too come-hither, too controlled.

Does this topic, in some strange way, connect with the recent post about James Frey refunding his readers due to his “false self?” Is there a sense of Paul de Man’s theory of the author in that the true diarist actually gives away their identity to those who want to find it out?

By on 09/17/06 at 08:22 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Add a comment:

Name:
Email:
Location:
URL:

 

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below: