Archive for November 15th, 2010

Kenilworth, 1575 reconstructed

Dear friends and readers,

As you may know, for the last two weekends I have been away: for 4 days in Portland, Oregon, for JASNA AGM, preceded by the Burney conference, whose topics were the Abbey (NA) and gothic respectively.

Kenilworth, popular 1814 print

And for 1 night, 1 day and 1 morning Pittsburgh, EC/ASECS annual meeting whose topic was “recovery.”

Kenilworth, Sporting Fields photo, early 20th century: an angle & vision used in recent film adaptations of 18th/19th century novels

The topic for the 1212 JASNA AGM in NYC, is “sex, power and money.” Izzy made a good suggestion: why not focus in on the depiction of cities in Austen’s work. Her idea is look at “Sex, Power and Money” in the towns Austen depicts. I can see that; as I think about it, I realize that there is a strong animus against the town; it’s where people are hurt, are betrayed, it’s dangerous; it’s ugly (in Portsmouth), cut off from the natural world and its rhythms.

Another possibility (but not probable) is a paper on Burney’s journals for the Burney conference in 1210 (piggy-backed onto the JASNA).

Having chaired two panels successfully, I’m also thinking of proposing for the next EC/ASECS whose topic will be “liberty” (held in Penn State) a panel on 20th and 21st century novels set sometime in the long 18th and 19th century novel. Of course I want to write a paper on Winston Graham’s Poldark novels. My problem here is I have got to get up a respectable line of argument. Alas, most historical novels are not respected (this is most unlike the 19th century) and seen as romance. So I am trying to gather secondary materials (essays and books) on historical novels in the 20th and 21st century as well as Graham to give me ideas beyond the super-abstractions of post-modern thinking. Christine Clark-Evans, organizer for the coming EC was enthusiastic and open to all sorts of approaches so I’m hopeful I’ll come up with something for real.

She also suggested I send in a second panel call, saying I need not chair that one too. So I’m thinking I could propose applying Isiah Berlin’s conceptions of “positive” and “negative and positive liberty” to 18th century novels and memoirs. I define these (after Berlin) this way: Negative liberty is what you can do after you have counted in all the constraints society and your own needs put on you. Positive liberty is knowing who you are apart from all this from within and seeking to enact it; then when you agree to do what someone else wants in order to get what you want, it can be seen as a freely taken form of acting, not servitude or enslavement. Then one would see how these sub-genres and concepts act out in recent fiction. Is it different for 19th century fiction in the way filming an 18th century book or matter produces a probing of modern familial and sexual pathologies and 19th century social and economic and class issues.

Kenilworth, 1850 photo

I admit developing a new set of routs is a challenge. I am teaching; I have still this (very enjoyable) book on Austen films to write. This project now includes reading about time-travelling, an essential dream that is part of the longing to return to the Austen world and also fuels the films.

I’d like to add a project on Graham and historical novels set in the18th and 19th century novels/memoirs, and read solid (informed, thoughtful &c&C) articles & books (if there are any) about historical fiction in the 20th and 21st century. I’ve read a few on historical fiction in the 19th so this will help, but the subject is not the same at all as attitudes have undergone a sea change. This would be towards the EC/ASECS panel I mentioned above but I’d be doing it for myself. I see that it was his novel, Marnie, upon which Hitchcock’s once famous (if commercially failed) movie was made; and have gotten a superb film study by Tony Lee Moral on the film. I’d learn a lot about film from reading the novel, seeing the film, and reading this book. This would ‘feed’ into my JA movie project.

For further off projects/absorbing work, I met and talked with Gillian Dow (whose paper on Genlis’s Countess of C******** was an argument just like mine: that this gothic is a central source for NA). She told me about a coming 1213 conference at Chawton library which will celebrate the 10 years of this place devoted to women writers of the 18th century. She liked my ideas for a Charlotte Smith paper.

I will really watch out for 1213 Chawton one, and budget that year accordingly. Jim even said, why don’t we try for Cornwall that summer, one week in Hampshire and one in Cornwall following the imagined worlds of Poldark and DuMaurier too (I’m a lover of DuMaurier’s historical gothic novels too).

Not to omit plus read for fun and to join in with other on my listservs.

It feels too much and I might not be able to do it all. I’ll try for I don’t want to give anything up any more: “one cannot have too many holds on happiness” says Henry Tilney. Maybe I ought also to make my motto one of Trollope’s favorite aphorisms (from Macbeth): The labour we delight in physics pain.


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