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The Clue In The Diary


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About midway through my dissertation preparations, I gave a paper and presentation on the challenges of historical research.

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The Clue In The Diary

  1. 1. The Clue in the Diary Debates and Dilemmas in Primary Source Research
  2. 2. My Dissertation <ul><li>Taught School: </li></ul><ul><li>Ambivalence, Artifice, and Disclosure </li></ul><ul><li>in the Diaries of Three </li></ul><ul><li>Early 20th Century Teachers </li></ul>
  3. 3. Abstract <ul><li>Many scholars have written that primary sources used to reconstruct the historical record of the early 20th century classroom have consisted chiefly of institutional documents and texts. Little—if any—attention has been paid to the contribution that ostensibly “private writing” (such as correspondence and diaries) might make to informing and possibly re-shaping this record. This dissertation interprets sampled writing from three female teachers’ diaries, 1903-35. In so doing, it sheds light on the contents, purposes, and meanings of those writings, as well as on the contexts in which these writings occurred. Further, the research suggests a new scheme for reading diaries through four specific lenses: contextual, rhetorical, relational and “identity.” The problematics surrounding diaries as historical artifacts are also explored. </li></ul>
  4. 4. Carolyn Keene <ul><li>From “The Clue in the Diary” (Book 7) </li></ul><ul><li>“The writer of this journal is an inventor, I see,” he commented. </li></ul><ul><li>“It’s not a day-by-day account. Apparently he put down only the most important events.” (Keene, 1950, p. 150). </li></ul>
  5. 5. Why I chose diaries <ul><li>It's the birthday of Georgia O'Keeffe , born in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (1887), who became famous for her paintings of flowers. But when asked why she chose flowers as her subject, she said &quot;Because they're cheaper than models and they don't move.&quot; </li></ul>
  6. 6. Major influences <ul><li>Robert Hughes, “The Fatal Shore” </li></ul><ul><li>Laura Z. Hillebrand, “Seabiscuit” </li></ul><ul><li>Jon Krakauer, “Into the Wild” </li></ul>
  7. 7. Where did the diaries come from? <ul><li>Hundreds of letters, emails, etc. </li></ul><ul><li>The result: </li></ul><ul><li>The Documentary Heritage Program newsletter: Grace Mowitt Rutherford </li></ul><ul><li>The Vermont Historical Society: Bernice Wright </li></ul><ul><li>My friend, Laura: Ellen V. McCarthy </li></ul>
  8. 8. What is a diary? <ul><li>Smith and Watson: suggest that 52 Genres of Life Narrative exist. </li></ul><ul><li>“ The diary is a form of periodic life writing, the diary records dailiness in accounts and observation of emotional responses.” </li></ul><ul><li>Lejeune regards diary writing as “an immense field, as yet largely unexplored” and a “social outcast, of no fixed theoretical address.” </li></ul>
  9. 9. Diary theorists <ul><li>Margo Culley </li></ul><ul><li>Suzanne Bunkers </li></ul><ul><li>Cinthia Gannett </li></ul><ul><li>Jennifer Sinor </li></ul><ul><li>Philip Lejeune </li></ul><ul><li>Rebecca Hogan </li></ul>
  10. 10. Conceptual framework <ul><li>A set of coherent ideas or concepts organized in a manner that makes them easy to communicate to others. </li></ul><ul><li>An organized way of thinking about how and why a project takes place, and about how we understand its activities. </li></ul><ul><li>The basis for thinking about what we do and about what it means, influenced by the ideas and research of others. </li></ul><ul><li>An overview of ideas and practices that shape the way work is done in a project. </li></ul>
  11. 12. Early words
  12. 13. Bernice McNall Wright only taught school for a few years. Her diaries, part of a vast collection of family papers that ranges from 1835 to 1962, detail a brief period of teaching in a strangely telegrammatic fashion. Her teaching assignment posted her to Mallett’s Bay (“the Bay”), a hamlet outside Colchester, Vt., north of Vermont’s most populous city, Burlington. She taught in a building known as “South Beach School.” (Also known as Colchester Log Schoolhouse #4, this building has only recently been discovered in Colchester and is undergoing renovation. The photo below dates from 1927. The woman in the photo is unidentified.)
  13. 14. Grace, a young girl
  14. 15. Grace, much later <ul><li>Grace taught in the </li></ul><ul><li>Amsterdam school district </li></ul><ul><li>For more than 45 years </li></ul>