The Use of Personal Documents in Psychological Science: Prepared for the Committee on Appraisal of Research

By Gordon W. Allport | Go to book overview

Surely the time is ripe for a detailed study of a diary from the point of view of the structure and functioning of an individual life. If the psychologist does not like the edited and self-conscious character of such published diaries as Bashkirtseff's (20), Barbellion's (17, 18), Ptaschkina (152), he may easily obtain fresh and unadulterated material by putting forth a little effort.

In Chapter 1 we mentioned the diary most discussed in psychological circles, A Young Girl's Diary (195), famous because Freud, in a brief introductory letter, declared it to be a "gem." In it Freud saw the beginnings of sexual consciousness, its growth to the status of a dominant interest, and its final incorporation into a maturer stream of thought. Published originally by Hug-Helmuth with the assertion that it had not been edited or altered, various critics wrote attacks upon its authenticity.6 The merits of this controversy do not seem worth recording. Suffice it to say that under strong pressure the publishers finally withdrew the book from circulation. Actually, the diary is simple and plausible enough, not in the least lurid, and seems in many respects similar to adolescent diaries whose authenticity is unquestionable. The style, however, does appear to be too mature for a young girl. The moral of this controversy, if it has a moral, would seem to be that editors of diaries should be entirely candid about modifications they have made for purposes of publication.


CONCLUSION

In spite of the fact that more has been written regarding the merits of the diary than regarding other single classes of personal documents, the present situation is far from satisfactory. In theory we may admit the virtues ascribed to this

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6
See for example, Krug (119).

-107-

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