Dampier, Helen and Stanley, Liz (2006) Knowledge, the ‘Moment of Writing’ and the Simulacrum Diaries of Johanna Brandt-Van Warmelo. In: Narrative, Memory & Knowledge: Representations, Aesthetics, Contexts. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 27-39.

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

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