Posts Tagged ‘teaching’

A Syllabus for a Class at the Oscher Lifelong Learning Institute at George Mason University

Exploring the Gothic

Day: 8 Tuesday afternoons, 2:15-3:40 pm, Sept 24th to Nov 11th
Tallwood, 4210 Roberts Road. Fairfax
Instructor: Ellen Moody

Description of Course:

This course explore varieties of gothic and its terrain which conform to recipe format. Take one labyrinthine or partly ruined dwelling, place inside murderous incestuous father or chained mother (preferably in a dungeon), heroes and heroines (as wanderers, nuns), stir in a tempest; have on hand blood, night-birds, and supernatural phenomena, with fore-, and back-stories set in the past. We’ll read short stories, three novellas and sample films. We’ll begin with ghosts and witches, move to vampires, werewolves, and end on socially critical mysteries and stories of the paranormal (e.g., possession). We cover terror, horror, male and female gothic. We’ll also view clips from two films considered the most powerful film gothics ever made and an Oscar winning short.


September 23:   Origin, definition, history of genre, characteristics. I’ll show parts of DVD for The Haunting and The Woman in Black (if possible, otherwise substitute clip from “Afterward” from Shades of Darkness).
September 30:   Stevenson, “Markheim, ” Wharton’s “Afterward” and Mary Reilly
October 7:  Mary Reilly (possible clip) and F. Marion Crawford’s “For the Blood is the Life”
October 14:   Stoker, “The Judge’s House,” Conan Doyle, “Adventure of Abbey Grange;” Wharton’s “Kerfol”
October 21:   Vampire Tapestry (first 3 tales), LeFanu’s “Carmilla” and Oliphant’s “The Open Door”
October 28:   Vampire Tapestry (last 2 tales), Stevenson, “The Body Snatchers,” Wharton, “Mr Jones”
November 4 :  Dickens, “Signalman”'; M. R. James, “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedrale”; Bierce, “Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge”; A. M. Burrage’s “Smee.”
November 11:  The Haunting of Hill House


Martin, Valerie. Mary Reilly. New York: Vintage, 1990. ISBN 978-0-375-72599-9. It’s available as a kindle, and there have been many editions: Doubleday 1990, Washington Square Press, 1994.
Charnas, Suzy McKee. The Vampire Tapestry. Albuquerque: Living Batch Press, 1980. It’s available as a Kindle and two newer edition: Orb Books, 2008; The Women’s Press, 1992.
Jackson, Shirley. The Haunting of Hill House. NY: Penguin 2006. ISBN978-0-14-303998-3

Online short stories:

R.L. Stevenson, “Markheim”  


Edith Wharton, “Afterward”


F. Marion Crawford, “For the Blood is the Life” (scroll down)


Bram Stoker’s “The Judge’s House”


Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of Abbey Grange”


Edith Wharton, “Kerfol”


R.L. Stevenson, “The Body Snatchers”


Edith Wharton, “Mr Jones”


Sheridan LeFanu, “Carmilla”


Margaret Oliphant, “The Open Door”


Charles Dickens, “The Signalman”


M. R. James, “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedrale”


A.M. Burrage, “Smee”


Ambrose Bierce, “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”


YouTube for Oscar Winning Short: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuP5kUQro40

For further materials on the gothic, see my website under Ghosts and gothics, vampires and witches and l’ecriture-femme; under Austen Reveries, the category “Gothic.”


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Trollope at age 40

A Syllabus

For a Study Group at the Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at American University
Day: Nine Wednesday afternoons over 10 weeks, 1 to 2:50 am, Temple Baptist Church
Dates: Classes start Oct 1st; last day Dec 10th.
Dr Ellen Moody

Description of Course

This study group will read will four of Trollope’s novels: An Eye for an Eye (written 1870), Nina Balatka (written 1865), Phineas Finn, (written 1866) and Lady Anna (written 1871), a group of short stories spanning Trollope’s career, one of which is the Barsetshire type. We will see that Barsetshire is but one phase of Trollope’s career: he began as an Anglo-Irish novelist, saw himself as exploring the political and social life of Great Britain as well as those countries across the globe connected to or affected by British customs and people. We will see him as a man making a career of writing among men and women making careers out of other professions and marriage. We’ll be reading passionate romances centered on ethnic and class conflict, colonialism, his foreign travel and ironic comedies about the way the world works, parliamentary life and interactions between law and reality. His characters encompass the fabulously rich and the abysmally impoverished. The class will also watch select excerpts from Simon Raven’s 1974 Pallisers, a mini-series which mirrors the ways Trollope is often read, and if possible Henry Herbert’s 1973 Malachi’s Cove, a cinematic adaptation of one of Trollope’s finest short stories, set in Cornwall.

Texts. Students are asked to bring a copy of the novel or stories we are discussing for the week to class.

Trollope, Anthony. The Complete Shorter Fiction, ed. Julian Thompson. NY: Carroll and Graf, 1992. ISBN: 0786700211. ———————–. An Eye for an Eye, ed. John Sutherland. NY: Oxford UP, 1992. ISBN 0192829106 It’s available in a Penguin and on-line http://www.gutenberg.org/files/16804/16804-h/16804-h.htm ———————. Nina Balatka, ed. Robert Tracy NY: Oxford UP, 1991. ISBN 0192827235. It is available as Classic Reprint, and Folio Society. Any of the 3. ———————-. Phineas Finn, ed. Jacques Berthoud. NY: Oxford, 1982. ISBN 0192815873 There are many editions and it’s on-line. http://web.archive.org/web/20080829221818/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/TroFinn.html .Any edition will do. ———————-. Lady Anna, ed. Stephen Orgel NY: Oxford, 1990. ISBN 0192821342. It is available in a Dover edition and on line: http://web.archive.org/web/20081201213913/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/TroAnna.html Any of the 3.

Format: Study group meetings will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion.

October 1st: Introduction: Trollope, life, career, attitudes towards; An Eye for an Eye
October 8th: Class cancelled (for a conference I must go to)
October 15th. Nina Balatka and “La Mere Bauche,” “Ride Across Palestine.”
October 22nd. “Returning Home,” “Aaron Trowe,” “Parsons Daughter at Oxney Colne”
October 29th Phineas Finn
November 5th Phineas Finn
November 12th Phineas Finn and 5 clips from Phineas Finn portions of 1974-75 The Pallisers mini-series
November 19th Phineas Finn, “The Spotted Dog” and “Why Frau Frohman Raised her Prices”
November 26th: Day before Thanksgiving, no class held
December 3rd: Lady Anna (Chs 1-24, Installments 1-6)) and “Malachi’s Cove”
December 10th: Lady Anna (Chs 25-48, Installments 7-12) and “Christmas at Thompson Hall”

Further on-line materials: Ellen’s website Anthony Trollope: British Novelist: Essays on Trollope’s fiction and travel books; bibliographies; group readings Trollope in the Magazines: the original and recent illustrations to his novels; his non-fiction articles Commentaries and summaries on the Pallisers and other films adapted from Trollope: mostly blogs Ellen and Jim have a blog, two, under category Trollope, blogs on Trollope and his writing

“Malachi’s Cove” is based on a real cover and dangerous high cliffs in Cornwall near the famous Lizard Peninsula: Halzephron Cove: here’s a YouTube of a man on holiday experiencing it:


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NPG P214; Anthony Trollope by Julia Margaret Cameron
Anthony Trollope, traveler — photo by Julia Cameron

Dear friends and readers,

This blog contains some enjoyable ironies for the Trollopian who knows that three years ago Simon Heffer wrote a sweepingly dismissive assessment of Anthony Trollope’s novels for the Telegraph. I’m delighted to announce I’m going at long last to teach a course in Anthony Trollope’s writing; it’ll occur this coming fall at the OLLI (Oscher Lifelong Learning Institute) at American University; and at the same time chuffed to be able to see a review I wrote of Heffer’s doorstop of a book on the Victorian Age,


appear on the Victorian Web, beautifully composited with effective appropriate illustrations. You see there are no novels Heffer better elucidates than Anthony Trollope’s Barsetshire and Palliser novels.

Not that the course I’m planning is going to contextualize Trollope as The Chronicler of Barsetshire (the title of a biography by R.H. Super), and, say, begin with The Warden or Dr Thorne (the first novel by Trollope I ever read, one assigned in an undergraduate course at Queens College, CUNY), with due transitions from The Small House at Allingham to the Pallisers who also dwell in Barset (the train station is there).

One of John Everett Millais’s vignette for The Small House.

Nothing wrong in that except it’s a distortion. Trollope began as an Anglo-Irish novelist, and far from an aberation, his travel stories and novellas, e.g., Nina Balatka (the story of fierce conflicts between Jews and Christians in Prague)

Modern photo of Charles River, Prague — plays an important role in Nina Balatka

were written before his seminal political novel, Phineas Finn. He was a contemporary political novelist, travel-writer and editor as much as a dreamer-escapist, romancer, brillant psychologist and careful artist. Anyway that’s how I’m going to present him.

Here’s the proposal I wrote:

Anthony Trollope is one of the greatest nineteenth-century novelists whom many readers still come into contact for the first time on their own — that is, without having been assigned to read first in school. His books have survived almost on their own, but their variety is not widely known and consequently the familiar ones “imperfectly understood” (one of his phrases). He is central in the history of the political novel; he wrote novellas in the Henry James mode, passionate romances, & medium-length radical realism set in many places outside as well as in England. He edited central Victorian journals. The goal of this course will be to enjoy and see Trollope from the lens of a more adequate perspective than the man from Barsetshire. This will be a two semester course.

As those who teach Victorian novels know, the great obstacle to success is the typical length of the powerful good books (we are talking 700-900 pages) so I did a sleight of hand. I did not begin with The Macdermots of Ballycloran because powerful political tragic romance that it is, it is also long: I chose for a starter instead Trollope’s startling landscape Irish novella, An Eye for an Eye. I allowed but one l-o-n-g book: Phineas Finn.


From The Pallisers: 3:6 (Phineas [Donal McCann] as Madame Max [Barbara Murray] first sees him, and Madame Max as he first sees her)

All others are novellas and short stories (James Thompson’s Complete Trollope is available in many copies for $4) with one medium-length realistic radical book, Lady Anna.

The syllabus is not written in cement (I’ll eliminate texts if students feel we need to), but here’s the plan:

Week 1: An Eye for an Eye (201 pages)

Week 2: “La Mere Bauche” (21 pages), “A Ride Across Palestine” (26), Returning Home” (16), and “Aaron Trowe.” (20)

Week 3 : Nina Balatka (195)

Week 4: “Parsons Daughter at Oxney Colne” (22), discussion of Barsetshire mythic place, and begin Phineas Finn (altogether 714 pages over 4 weeks or 178 pages a week)

Week 5: Phineas Finn

Week 6: Phineas Finn

Week 7: Phineas Finn and excerpt from those parts of Pallisers films drawn from Phineas I

Week 6: “Spotted Dog” (34), “Why Frau Frohman Raised her Prices” (50)

Week 7: Lady Anna (513 pages over 4 weeks, so 128 a week)

Week 9: Lady Anna

Week 10: Lady Anna

Week 11: Lady Anna and “Malachi’s Cove,” (16 pages) (with 30 minutes of TV film).

For afficionados, I do have a VHS copy of the fine 75 minute film adaptation of Trollope’s “Malachi’s Cove” which we’ll also read (about people in Cornwall who make a precarious living gathering seaweed off of cliffs).

Donald Pleasance as Malachi and Veronica Quilligan as his granddaughter

Some rationales: “La Mere Bauche” and “A Ride Across Palestine” puts paid to the idea Trollope is not openly erotic; “Returning Home” and “Aaron Trowe” are about colonialism from the point of view of desperate settlers; “Parsons Daughter” besides its poignant psychological ironies can stand in for Barsetshire impulses (its landscape in Devon). I have two editors’ tales which Trollope said were the best fictions he ever wrote (“Spotted Dog” and “Frau Frohman”). Trollope once said he meant Lady Anna to begin an Australian series (our hero and heroine set out for Australia since society they feel will be more open to their union than in England). I regret not having a Christmas story at the last (the course ends in December) but then Trollope disliked having to write them for the market even if he wrote a a genuinely traumatic comedy out of his reluctance (“Christmas at Thompson Hall”).

What will the second semester be like? one long book again, either a political Palliser or one of the novels which have become “signatures” for him (Last Chronicle of Barset, or He Knew He Was Right, or The Way We Live Now), with a different choice of novellas, short fiction and realism, to bring out other aspects of his career or themes, his artistry. I’d love a travel book but they are huge, and the one abridgement, of North America, is long out of print. Hardly any copies anywhere. If I should live so long.

The great fun of teaching at OLLI is not only are the students enthusiastic, intelligent older people, you don’t have to choose a traditional topic or author — Trollope is that. Someone suggested to me that a semester of Winston Graham’s Poldark novels, planned to coincide with the airing of the new coming mini-series would be very well received so Trollope II would have to wait. I’m not going anywhere.

Aidan Turner to be the new Ross Poldark — do not hold The Hobbit against him (he also played Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

Eleanor Tomlinson the new Demelza (she was Georgiana Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley) — this photo as illustration recalls one of the frontispieces of the Poldark novels (1960s)


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Dear friends,

In the computer disaster I had two days ago it appears that the course proposals I had made for a summer teaching course at an Oscher Institute of Learning may have been permanently lost; as I want these documents and today (as yet) have no writing program I can put them on — the new computer with Windows 8 is hellishly cutsey, tricksey. I cannot figure out how to write on Word on this Macbook Pro without the whole screen being transformed, so that I appear unable to reach my gmail with hitting F3 which minimalizes everything and let’s me see, and get back to gmail and the row of programs I have at the bottom of Macbook Pro. So I am saving two sets of documents or writing here — I used to use this blog to work out my thoughts on books, films, teaching; well read these as 5 sketches towards a summer course for retired people.

The Gothic

This course will explore the gothic mode in fiction and film. The gothic as a mode is a vast terrain with many differnt subgenres, yet images, plot-, and character types repeat like a formula. Take one huge labyrinthine ancient or partly ruined dwelling, place inside a murderous incestuous father or mother (preferably chained), heroes and heroines (various kinds), get a tempest going at night, be sure to have plenty of blood on hand, owls, and stir in a great deal of supernatural phenomena, have the action occur in the deep past or be connected to a deep past … We’ll use short stories on-line, beginning with ghosts and terror, moving onto vampire, werewolf, and wanderer paradigms and horror, and last socially critical mystery and possession. The course culminates in two recent novellas, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly, and the justly famed film, Robert Wise’s The Haunting (1963, featuring Julie Harris).

Texts on-line will be chosen from among these: Wharton’s “Afterward” and/or “Kerfol,” M. R. James’s “The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral;” Sheridan LeFanu’s “Green Tea” and/or “Carmilla,” Marion Crawford’s “For the Blood is the Life,” R. L. Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Suzy Charnas’s “Unicorn Tapestry; Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of Abbey Grange.” This spares students buying an expensive anthology.

Memory, Desire, and Self-fashioning: Life Writing

This course will enable students to better to understand and recognize the nature of life-writing: diaries, books of letters, journals, memoirs, travel narratives, autobiogaphies, biographies. Our three texts will be Richard Holmes’s Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer, Iris Origo’s War in Val d’Orca: An Italian War Diary, 1943-1944 (or George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia) and Margaret Drabble’s The Figure in the Carpet: A Personal History, with Jigsaws. We will ask what is the nature of the truth autobiography produces and look at the relationship of a biographer to his subject. We’ll look at writing done to the moment when the writer does not know what the future holds (diaries, letters); how far is a biography the product of a biographer’s memories interacting with text by his (or her) subject. We’ll talk about the importance of childhood and play in this form, how aging, imagination and disappointment work are part of the mental materials that make up life-writing. If time permits and the DVD is available, the class will conclude with the 2013 film, The Invisible Woman, based on Claire Tomalin’s biography of a long love-relationship between Charles Dickens and Ellen Ternan (an actress), where most of the evidence for the events was destroyed, and thus be able to discuss events that happen, and are important in people’s lives and yet have left no discernible clear record.

The Political Novel

The course aims to enable the students to recognize what is political novel and how such novels can function in our society. We’ll read Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September, Walter Von Tilburg Clark’s The Ox-Bow Incident, and Valerie Martin’s Property and see William Wellman’s film, The Ox-Bow Incident (1963, featuring Henry Fonda and Anthony Quinn). We’ll look at the nature of political allegory: how ideas about society penetrate the consciousness of the characters and can be observed in their behavior. Why some events enter what’s called history and why political novels often lend themselves to historical treatment; why other events are not discussed as serious history, which can limit what we perceive as political behavior. Finally, how films contribute to understanding a novel or its political meanings.

The Historical and Post-Colonial Turn in modern novels

This course will examine historical and post-colonial (or global) turn that English fiction has taken in the last quarter century. We’ll read and discuss three novels: Paul Scott’s Staying On, Graham Swift’s Waterland, and Andrea Levy’s Small Island. The first poignant novel is also about two aging people now retired, who have seen the word they were part of disappear and must cope with new arrangements hostile to them. The second will enable us to discuss how some events enter political history and others don’t, and thus our past is past is something we invent through imposing choice and order based on hierarchies in our present culture. Historical romance can therefore be liberating acts of resistance, a way of redressing injustice, and creating a more humane usable past. The third novel shows the centrality of nationalistic identities in enforcing exclusions or forming imagined communities. The course will conclude by watching an excerpt from a mini-series adaptation of Small Island (2009, BBC, featuring David Oyelowo and Ruth Wilson). I hope the class will see the connection of these novels to young adult fiction, counter-factual fictions, and romantic history as well as TV costume drama.

Jane Austen: the early phase

This course focus on Austen’s first published novels: Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Love and Freindship (a short hilarious burlesque which we will read first), Austen’s Steventon years, and letter fiction provide prologue and context for reading S&S and P&P. An alternative perspective provides the last phase of the course: Austen’s Bath years, a brief mid-career epistolary novel written there, Lady Susan (with an utterly amoral heroine), and discussion of how Austen revised the novels when she settled at Chawton. Last, we’ll see Ang Lee and Emma Thompson’s S&S (a 1995 Miramax product), and discuss what this film makes visible about the way film-makers think readers read these novels and how these interpretations differ from this course’s historical, autobiographical and aesthetic readings.


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Courses I taught at GMU and AU

Dear friends,

A computer disaster has hit me and I’m trying to retrieve a few documents which I fear I will lose permanently. While I wait for a plan to materialize which will set up my files and programs again on a working and workable computer, this is a list of the courses I taught at GMU and AU for the last 23 years. I have been teaching since 1972 (with 7-8 years off for children) and it omits the early years in NYC (Queens and Brooklyn College), mostly endlessly freshman composition. It also omits 2 advanced courses (300-400 level) I taught at the Northern Regional Center of the University of Virginia (1987-88): The Augustan Age (1700-44, included Pope, Gay’s Beggar’s Opera as I recall), and a Shakespeare course (included Richard II and Winter’s Tale) to History and English high school teachers seeking to improve their accreditation. Alas, I didn’t get to teach The Age of Sensibility as Fairfax county decided to be cheap and switch to “in-house” courses with no Ph.D as a teacher and so my position ended.

GMU and AU Teaching History for Ellen Moody:

I began teaching in the English Department at GMU in the Spring of 1988, and taught until May 2013 every fall and spring semester but one. I also taught many summers. I have organized this to begin with the general education introductory literature courses I taught at GMU and to end with the general education composition courses. Within these large categories, I have placed the first ones taught first, and end with the courses I taught most recently. For AU I taught from 1987 to 1992 and only in the fall and spring. Each fall I taught two sections of Freshman Composition, and then in the spring was given a required introductory themed literature course. I recall only three types, and have listed these after the GMU list.


General Education, Introductory Literature, 1988-2012:

English 203: Western Literary Masterworks, First Half. This was the first course I taught at George Mason and I taught it in Spring of 1988. I taught this one altogether for about 8 semesters.

English 251: British Literature First Half. I taught this course for the first time in the early 1990s (perhaps 1991) and taught it for a number of fall terms in a row. Sometimes I taught it in the spring too. Most of the time I had two sections each term until the course was limited to one section and then (as far as I know now) abolished.

English 252: British Literature Second Half. I taught this course much less often than 251, but did teach my first one in the early 1990s also (perhaps 1992). I hazard a guess that I taught this course more than I did the 203.

English 207: Literature and Society. I taught this once. It was summer 1993. I enjoyed it very much. We covered Renaissance drama and the Romantic period. We read a few Renaissance plays, including Middleton’s Women Beware Women, and poetry by Byron, Shelley, and Wordsworth and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and William Godwin’s Caleb Williams.

English 202: Texts and Contexts. I taught this for the first time in the summer of 1999; again in fall 1999, summer 2000 and summer 2001. Each time I had just one section. I enjoyed teaching this class very much and put together a syllabus where we studied gothic and romance literature. My proposal for gothic literature develops out of this teaching as well as my publications.

English 201: Reading and Writing about Texts. I have taught this a number of times since it was established in the curriculum. I have a gift for explanation and what was needed was very basic kinds of practice in discerning and writing about literary conventions as well as helping students to read more sophisticatedly. I sometimes used an anthology and sometimes ordered separate texts (e.g., J. L. Carr’s A Month in the Country and other short good modern fiction).

General Education, Advanced Composition in Humanities, Natural Sciences and Technology and Social Sciences, 1988-present:

English 302, Advanced Composition on Natural Science and Technology. I have no record of how often I taught this course, but I have done it for something like 40 times. My earliest record of teaching it goes back to fall 1992. I know for a few years in a row I taught 2 sections of it each spring and fall. I have also taught it for a few summers too. I made a speciality of this and was proud of my syllabus which was directed towards the needs of the students, and seemed to satisfy them very much.

English 302, Advanced Composition on the Humanities: I have no record of how often I have taught this course, nor when I first taught one. I hazard a guess the first time was in 1993. I seem to have been given a section or two every couple of years, though sometimes the stretch between assignments has been as long as five years. I enjoy teaching this one very much. I had the students write on art, music, drama, and have a research assignment where I ask students to reread a favorite book from middle childhood, research the background for the book, the author’s life (if relevant), the genre of children’s literature, and write a literary analysis.

English 302, Advanced Composition on Social Sciences. This is the Advanced Writing section I taught least often. I did not avoid it; I was just not given sections. I think I taught it three times. I enjoy it because it leads centrally into cultural studies.


Freshman/Sophomore level course: American Literary Masterpieces. I chose short stories, novels and plays by American writers and tried to unite them through themes; I also followed a chronology so the students might get some sense of development. Texts I recall include Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Wm Dean Howell’s A Modern Instance, Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, Richard Wright’s Native Son, three novellas by Wm Styron. I used an anthology of “great” American short stories and another of American poetry.

Freshman/Sophomore level course: Memory and Self. I taught this course in life writing at least twice. I enjoyed delving different kinds of life-writing with the students. Texts I recall include: John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley; George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia; Mary McCarthy’s Memoirs of a Catholic Girlhood; Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood.

Freshman/Sophomore level course: Evil, guilt and justice. Texts included excerpts from Allen Mandelbaum’s translation of Dante’s Inferno; Bronte’s Jane Eyre; an anthology of gothic tales one semester and ghost stories another; an anthology of Eugene O’Neill’s plays; Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale.

This is a record of the courses I taught at GMU and AU to the best of my recollection.


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From Andrew Davies’s mini-series Mr Selfridge (based on Lindy Woodhead’s Shopping, Seduction, and Mr Selfridge

I do not believe in recovery. The past, with its pleasures, its rewards, its foolishness, its punishments, is there for each of us forever, and it should be — Lillian Hellman

It is not true that in time you get used to it — Simone de Beauvoir

“The secondary impulse is to go out of the self, to correct its provincialism and heal its loneliness — C. S. Lewis

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve not blogged in over a week because I’ve been busy with various projects, most of which I am not ready to write on as yet, or I have to wait to write on because something else will be due earlier. My good past gone, I move to a new framing.

I finished reading Musiol’s important book on Vittoria Colonna but feel I must work on it carefully and during the day, that it will take much thought to review usefully (or why bother?): the description on line leads one to think it’s mainly on Michelangelo’s drawings possibly of Vittoria Colonna, when it is rather a detailed biography in the context of the religious and military politics and other literary works of her age.

Other projects nearing conclusion (coming out of list-serv life): LeFanu’s short stories and Wyvern Mystery (plot-designs and characters emerging from interior pathways through melancholy); Lillian Hellman’s 4 memoirs (Unfinished Woman, Pentemento, Scoundrel Time, Maybe).

But before doing that I have to make one or two syllabi for a possible position teaching in the Humanities part of a BA program. Since I’ve never taught courses which match the requirements of their core curriculum, this will take some doing. And a not so small obstacle here is I just ordered the books, so even with expedited shipping for a couple of them, have to wait. Paradoxically though I’m closer to being able to teach a course in the Enlightenment (one of the two offered), as 1) the 18th century is my primary area; 2) I used to teach a survey on the first half of British literature, one third of which I devoted to the long 18th century, I actually have more recent anthologies for the Victorian Age (my other choice).

Pre-Raphaelite image, Millais (on the cover of the Longman Victorian Age)

Right now I’m thinking I should have for each syllabus a single readable (entertaining too) volume of general history (G. H. Young’s Portrait of an Age [Victorian]), an anthology which will give selections from many topics and a variety of texts and authors, and perhaps one or two whole single texts. Some of these anthologies I see have extended texts on-line which may form the equivalent of single texts. I don’t want to make the students pay extravagant amounts of money. For the Victorian Age one, I’m hoping the Broadview anthology comes quickly because it has a lot of Anthony Trollope in it, but I very much like the Longman (rich in traditional texts) and am drawn to the documents in Politics and Empire in Victorian Britain, ed. Antoinette Burden (with pieces by slaves and all sorts of extraordinary exposures of the condition of people at the time all over the globe which would (I hope) set students thinking.

Reynolds’s portrait of Abingdon as Miss Prue (on the cover of the Longman 18th century anthology)

For the eighteenth century, Enlightenment one, I find I can think of a set of individual books, one of which might be a poetry anthology, but the outline of the course suggested asks that the instructor to have a core corpus of philosophical texts, some of which must debate attitudes towards religion (certainly central to the Enlightenment is the spread of secularism) so I’ve ordered Kramnick’s anthology of continental and English Enlightenment philosophical texts, and am thinking about single volume anthologies called Enlightenment (Roy Porter, or Dorinda Outram), to which I could add a good novel or travel memoir; or the Longman or Norton anthologies.

I hope all the ordered stuff arrives as I’m supposed to have these syllabi by New Year’s Day (January 1st). Meanwhile along with my etext edition of Ethelinde (slowly typing it still) and my return to Emma, Austen’s novel, for calendar study, and the Emma movies, which I suppose I must put aside for now, or go slower, late into the night I’m enjoying myself watching Andrew Davies’s Mr Selfridge and endlessly re-watching the 3 seasons of Downton Abbey, which I never seem to tire of: partly it’s that so much money and care and the intense art that results from that, & the many characters gone into with all their parallels and ironic contrasts inside evolving stories — makes slow re-watching rich in ever new insights. Partly the depth of feeling the characters show towards one another satisfies an endless need in me:

Mr (Brendan Coyle) and Mrs (Joanne Froggart): on the beach (4th season)

If Jim were still alive, I’d not be returning to teaching; I’d probably stay with Emma, the Austen movies and Ethelinde, and maybe for fun turn to Winston Graham and historical fiction. Be going out to plays, operas, concerts, walking with him, talking. Travel, say to the Lake District, Venice — but I do know he was beginning to not want to do these things — himself aging, weakening (perhaps that horrible disease cancer that ate him up showing itself). I would have done that paper on Anne Finch and retirement. Lillian Hellman says in her memoirs (which I’m almost ready to write about, just have to finish the fourth and a couple of essays on it) that when you are driven to give up an old way of life, when it’s destroyed, you are spared stagnation, staying in one frame or sameness of place, growing even older than your years.

Can I tell myself (like Hellman) that what was then, is there still now, and the years between, and the then and now are one? No it’s not one, now and the long (now feeling all too short) time with Jim. And what happened to make this raw rip was unspeakable. Here we were, innocent in a landmark house, Amos Brown’s, Vermont, what turned out to be our last summer:



Before I read with him, now in order not to read all alone, and be utterly desolate in my heart and inner being, I have to turn the reading into socially useful, acceptable patterns and paths.

“Aussi triste qe soit un livre, it n’est jamais aussi triste que la vie” — Chantal Thomas [as sad as a book is, it’s never as sad as life], Souffrir


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Dear friends and readers,

Not only is “Intertextuality in Simon Raven’s The Pallisers and Other Trollope Films” published, but the volume in which it occurs, Victorian Literature and Film Adaptation, edd. Abigail Burnham Bloom and Mary Sanders Pollock, introd. Thomas Leitch has been reviewed by Kamilla Elliot in the online academic review journal, Review 19. While Elliot’s review justifiably critiques aspects of the volume, she signals out mine and one other, Gene M. Moore’s “Making Private Scenes Public: Conrad’s “Return” and Chereau’s Gabrielle (see my analysis in another blog), as superior, the best in the volume:

Welcoming theoretical and methodological variety, I find value in older approaches, especially when–as in the essays by Gene M. Moore and Ellen Moody–they rest on a substantial body of scholarship and research

Some of Elliot’s criticism of the volume derive from her strongly theoretical, post-modern point of view (see her Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate). I liked her suggestion that I should or could “step back from [my] meticulous microanalyses of screenplays to present a broader perspective of how screenplays mediate between literature and film?” I shall keep this kind of comment in mind when I return to my book, A Place of Refuge: A study of the Sense and Sensibility films (working title).

But I should say (and I think this an important point, fundamental even) that I disagree with her main perspective: insofar as the essays in Victorian Literature and Film Adaptation use a high amount of theoretical (packed) language and jump from general statement to general statement they lack content, and are insufficiently descriptive of their subject matter and convey less information and insight about their chosen films and books.

William Powell Firth (1891-1909), (monumental) The Railway Station (1862)

So, speaking plainly, for those interested in Victorian/Edwardian films, the volume contains 2 essays whose subject matter is Jane Austen films (arguably Victorian in the way the novels are treated); one on the generation of Jekyll and Hyde films (Leitch); one on Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan (partly out of Wilde’s play); Dickens’s Christmas Carol; one on Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, an adaptation of Russell Banks’s novel, using, as does Egoyan, Browning “The Pied Piper” as an intermediary text (a superbly insightful essay by Mary Sanders Pollock); one on Kubrick’s adaptation of Thackeray’s Barry Lyndon (another genuinely enlightening informative one by Louise McDonald); one on several versions of Dracula, one on the 1939 Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films compared to recent analogous and free adaptations, and mine on Trollope whose original more accurate and grammatically sound title was “Trollope on Television: Intertextuality in the Pallisers and other Trollope films:” it focuses on Raven’s Pallisers (and two other of Raven’s mini-series as intermediary texts), but also covers Plater’s Barchester Chronicles, and uses aspects of Herbert Herbert’s Malachi’s Cove, and Andrew Davies’s The Way We Live Now and He Knew He Was Right, to suggest how centrally Raven’s perspective on Trollope has influenced those films made after his (recently in reaction against).

Elliot said she didn’t understand the three major divisions of the volume. The third follows its subtitle: “Teaching Books by Reading Movies.” The three essays tell of how the writers as teachers use film and they make concrete useful suggestions for those embarking on such teaching. Read the screenplay with the students (emphasize intermediary texts), concentrate on the beginnings and endings of films (often different from the originating book), multiple versions or films of the same story unmoors students front their tenacious adherence to the originating text as a primary standard. The second part (in which my essay appears) had essays which focus on the alteration of values in the content of book and films, but it is true that the third essay on the first part (on Dickens’s Christmas Carol) locates the persistence of the story in its content of the retrievable, rejuvenation, generosity, charitableness. The first part is supposed to be about filmic-techniques, tropes, typical procedures, the exploitation of at least generally favored paradigms and myth. Jean-Marie Lecomte’s on Lubitsch’s Lady Windermere’s Fan is about technique, and Thomas Leitch’s on the many Jekyll, Hydes on the necessity to develop some understood relationship between source or eponymous text, film, and intervening film and verbal texts.

John Malkovich as Hyde (1996 Mary Reilly, an adaptation of RLStevenson’s novel & Valerie Martin’s novels of the same name)

Julia Roberts as Mary Reilly (the film includes as intertexts Victorian painting, Orson Welles’s Moby Dick, Dracula films et alia

It’s hard to differentiate theme from form. My essay covers both aspects of film adaptation of texts found to be centrally meaningful since their first reception as books. I argue that the Pallisers was an important noticed sociological event (year-long) which fixed Trollope in the TV public mind as a paternalistic Tory (like his hero, the liberal whig politician Duke of Omnium), and that in these “Raven’s scripts shape Trollope’s novels into a filmic, disillusioned political vision, which justifies patriarchy in an ameriorated inegalitarian society, itself dependent on the self-erasure of women whose emotional and social support is needed to sustain it.” I also argue that Herbert’s and Davies’s films turn Trollope’s texts into critical exposures of Victorian systems of privilege, and replace Raven’s cynical Tory Trollope with a humane, liberal Trollope, partly in reaction to Raven’s characters (who differ considerably from Trollope’s). But to show this I compare texts from Trollope’s Phineas Redux with Pallisers 8:15 and 8:16:

Lady Glencora Palliser (Susan Hampshire, 8:15, see also Mid-point)

From the Duchess’s dinner-party (8:16)

and bring in Raven’s previous film adaptations (Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson, The Blackheath Poisonings). In moving onto the recent films have to take into considerable that recent film adaptations do not conceive the material as filmed stage plays, but sequences of juxtaposed stills, and I compare the wistful feminism of Susan Hampshire as Signora Neroni in Plater’s Barsetshire with Trollope’s desperate unscrupulous Signora.

Signora Neroni (Susan Hampshire), melancholy, disillusioned (1982 BBC Barchester Chronicles)

Intertexual texts for Davies are films as much as books. Davies’ hero, Paul Montague in The Way we Live Now, refuses to treat the heroines as of right the natural property of the older males; Davies’ depiction of the Jewish themes of Trollope’s book exposes the bigotry of the hypocritical upper class English in their anti-semitism by taking one of Trollope’s inset epistolary correspondences and turning it into dramatic scenes of great power.

Davies’s 2001 The Way We Live Now: Georgiana (Anne-Marie Duff) treats the noble if Jewish Breghert (Jim Carter) in the most insulting inhumane terms

My view is a close comparative analysis which does not privilege the eponymous book or previous incarnations of it in films but includes these and the screenplay, and whatever other source and intermediate texts a film-maker necessarily must form the basis of any understanding of a film and its sources. I suggest that theoretical language is more than a blight linguistically; it can be a substitute for the hard work of close reading and a thorough grounding in the history of the era the eponymous book was written in, the era the movie is made in, its genre and all the work the film-makers (including production design and actors) did in other films. Elliot complains in her review of several “thin” and under-researched essays. The person spent all his or her time (maybe not a lot) on reading and writing these sentences of sometimes impossible to decipher packed theory.

Donald Pleasaunce as Malachi and Veronica Quilligan as his grand-daughter, Mally (Herbert has in mind previous Cornish films’ motifs, 1974 Malachi’s Cove)

Well enough. I won’t summarize my colleagues work nor go more into the details of mine. Much is on the Net in even more “meticulous microanalysis” than is permitted in a published book.

I am chuffed and proud to see my work in the same volume as that of Thomas Leitch whose Film Adaptation and Its Discontents has long been one of the books I keep on my library table near my desk and who I corresponded with by email during the time of the book’s making, shared work with and was very generous to me.

Rev Gibson (David Tennant) trying to evade Arabella French (Fenella Woolgar) (from one of Marcus Stone’s original illustrations to Trollope’s HKHWR)


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