This study, "Reading (and) the personal: the journal intime of Marie Bashkirtseff", seeks to demonstrate the critical value of (reading) the personal. It is driven by a concern with the effects of reading, both upon the constitution of readerly subjectivity and with respect to generic construction. Focussing not on the question of destination, but upon the interface of reading subject and diary text as the site at which meaning is produced, it constitutes an investigation into the questions raised by/at the juncture of the (feminine) personal and the public. These questions are articulated through readings of three sets' of texts: firstly, accounts of reading produced by others who have made the diary text-reader nexus the focus of their own concerns, secondly, the preface that Marie Bashkirtseff composed to her journal five months before she died of tuberculosis in 1884, and thirdly, the body of the journal intime itself (1873 - 1884).
By declaring in her preface that in the event of her early death immortality was to be achieved through publication of her journal, Bashkirtseff staked posterity upon the phenomenon of readability. An exploration of the ethics and erotics of diary reading, as represented by others' discursive attempts to come to terms with the dilemmas posed by their own encounters with women's nineteenth-century diaries, functions in a first instance as a means of teasing out the stakes involved in Bashkirtseffs bid to go public with the personal. Examination of the assumptions underlying a first set of metaphors reveals the extent to which construction of the personal diary as an object of critical endeavour is undeipinned by a reliance upon the twin binaries of fact/fiction and the Literary/Non-literary. It is argued that the gendering of these dichotomies and the concomitant effort to valorise the previously devalorised term results in a configuration of the juncture of the personal and the academic which is reductive. By examining what becomes of the fact/fiction dichotomy within a second narrative of diary reading, other figurations of readerly subjectivity are pointed to and their critical effectiveness explored.
The means by which the preface seeks to perform the tasks of securing readerly interest and laying down guidelines for reading in the face of its proposed transgression of the dictates of pudeur constitutes the focus of the second and third chapters. By suggesting that the journal is to be read as the juncture of two sets of intertexts - Goncourt's Chérie and his preface to La Faustin on the one hand and Rousseau's Confessions on the other - the preface problematises its own narrating instance, and gives to be read the highly conflictual nature of the two sets of conventions to which it appeals. Reading the preface's attempts to negotiate between the feminine personal on the one hand and speaking oneself on the other allows conclusions to be drawn concerning the impossibility of simply marrying' gender into genre. It is shown that genres construct themselves by configuring gender in very precise ways and conversely that concepts of gender are formed and consolidated through generic conventions.
The questions raised by shifting from the preface, written through narrative conventions of causality and available for reading in its entirety in print, to the body of the journal which currently hovers between the realms of the published and the unpublished, constitute the basis for the final two chapters. Firstly, the figure of the scrupulous editor is problematised by a reading of the ways in which the inscription of the body of labour in manuscript intersects with the text of the entries themselves in order to produce certain parameters of reading. Secondly, the means by which the journal attempts to negotiate the context of its own reading in the face of the absence of a consistent narrative relationship is canvassed, and thirdly, the connotations of frivolity and the mundane which attach themselves to the feminine personal and the problems that these pose for ensuring readership are investigated. It is argued that the journal negotiates its passage from the context of its keeping to a public context of reading by giving to be read the means by which the public is constituted as such.