The Alice Williamson Diary

3370 Words7 Pages

The Alice Williamson Diary To read the Civil War diary of Alice Williamson, a 16 year old girl, is to meander through the personal, cultural and political experience of both the author and one's self. Her writing feels like a bullet ricocheted through war, time, death, literary form, femininity, youth, state, freedom and obligation. This investigation attempts to do the same; to touch on the many issues that arise in the mind of the reader when becoming part of the text through the act of reading. This paper will lay no definitive claims to the absolute meaning of the diary, for it has many possible interpretations, for the journey is the ultimate answer. I seek to acknowledge the fluidity of thought when reading, a fluidity which incorporates personal experience with the content of Williamson's journal. I read the journal personally- as a woman, a peer in age to Alice Williamson, a surrogate experiencialist, a writer, an academic and most of all, a modern reader unaccustomed to the personal experience of war. I read the text within a context- as a researcher versed on the period, genre, aesthetics, and to some degree the writer herself. The molding of the personal and contextual create a rich personalized textual meaning . I keep my journal hidden; the script, the drawings, the color, the weight of the paper, contents I hope never to be experienced by another. My journal is intensely personal, temporal and exposed. When opening the leather bound formality of Alice Williamson's journal a framework of meaning is presupposed by the reader's own feelings concerning the medium. Reading someone else's diary can be, and is for myself, an voyeuristic invasion of space. The act of reading makes the private and personal into public. Yet, for Alice Williamson and many other female journalists of the Civil War period, the journal was creating a public memory of the hardship that would be sustained when read by others. The knowledge of the outside reader reading of your life was as important as the exercise of recording for one's self; creating a sense of sentimentality connecting people through emotions. (Arnold) The activity of understanding Alice Williamson's diary begins prior to reading the first word. The reader begins to identify part of the reading experience based upon their feelings on diaries themselves in the moments of suspension between knowledge of type of text and the reading of the first entry.

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