CFP: Women Writing World War I: Centenary Reflections

Literature about WWI is often associated primarily with men, especially with those who had first-hand experience of the war—Ernest Hemingway, Erich Maria Remarque, Rupert Graves. War novels, great or otherwise, are usually defined as stories of battle, and war poetry similarly is thought of as written by soldiers—Wilfrid Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, John McCrae (whose “In Flanders Fields” is perhaps the best-known war poem of all). That the Great War was not exclusively a manly undertaking, however, is evidenced by the participation of women in the war effort, both behind the lines as nurses, volunteers, and ambulance drivers and on the home front as administrative clerks and munitions workers. Mothers, too, were mobilized, a circumstance made shockingly clear by war propaganda such as the notorious “Little Mother” letter. While women writers at the time wrote about the war (Virginia Woolf, Rebecca West, Vera Brittain, L.M. Montgomery), it is only in recent times that critics have also begun to redefine war literature to encompass women’s experiences and viewpoints as legitimate contributions. Post-memory interpretations of WWI include many by women (Anita Shreve, Jody Shields, Jane Urquhart, Anne Perry, Frances Itani, Laurie King, and Jacqueline Winspear, for example).

This edited collection will assess and discuss women’s contributions in serious literature and popular writing in English to our understanding of WWI. Articles might consider works from Great Britain, the Commonwealth countries, and the United States. In particular, questions to which the volume seeks responses include:

1) Is women’s writing about the war always marked (primarily) by gender? If so, how is it gendered? By protagonist, subject matter, approach, dominant tropes, etc?
2) Do women’s stories about WWI alter our understanding of that war’s historical significance?
3) Does women’s creative non-fiction (autobiography, biography, essays) have the same characteristics as their fictional and poetic output, or is it distinctive?
4) Are there particular literary genres to which women writing about the war are drawn? If so, why?
5) Does women’s writing generally rely on a female protagonist, or are women cast as supportive characters?
6) Do women’s stories exhibit particular national characteristics? Are they situated within a specific national tradition?
7) Why do women writers now feel the need to revisit WWI? Is it easier now to write from a female perspective about the war, and if so, why?
8) Does the interweaving of multiple story lines that is typical of post-memory narratives (Jane Urquhart, Jacqueline Winspear, Anne Perry) detract from or perhaps even erase the gravity of meaning of the Great War, or does it contribute to a multifaceted engagement with the subject?

Submit abstracts of 350 words together with a short biographical sketch to Christa Zeller Thomas (czellert@uottawa.ca). Deadline for abstracts is March 15, 2014. The deadline for submitting full articles is July 15, 2014. Articles must use MLA citation style and be no longer than 6000 words.

L.M. Montgomery YA Novel Set for 2015

LMMadolescentLast week, a press release announced that Penguin Canada had acquired a young adult novel based on the adolescent life of L.M. Montgomery. Its author, Melanie J. Fishbane, recently received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has also blogged on this site before (and she knows more about YA fiction than anyone else I know!). The novel will be published under Penguin Canada’s Razorbill imprint in 2015, with the support of L.M. Montgomery’s heirs.

This is a very exciting project. Although Montgomery’s fiction has been reimagined, extended, and transformed in innumerable ways—prequels, adaptations for stage and screen, parodies, and abridgements—her own life is far less known to most readers of her books. Yet many readers of her journals and letters find her own life story just as fascinating and compelling—if not more so—as her fiction. In fact, so far her life story has been dramatized solely for the stage: Don Hannah’s The Wooden Hill (1994), Anne Kathleen McLaughlin’s Maud of Cavendish (2004), Leo Marchildon and Adam-Michael James’s The Nine Lives of L.M. Montgomery (2008), and Maud of Leaskdale (2012). This will be the first time that Montgomery’s own life story is tackled in print outside the genre of biography, and it will also be the first such project to focus exclusively on Montgomery’s young life as an adolescent.

I’m very much looking forward to this exciting project, which will introduce a new take of Montgomery’s life to an audience of readers who will likely discover, as have readers of her life writing already, that she is just as compelling a protagonist as her best-known characters.

Feature Film Version of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical in the Works

Image from Anne of Green Gables: The Musical

Image from Anne of Green Gables: The Musical

Yesterday, an article in Variety reported that an announcement had been made at the Toronto Film Festival concerning a planned a feature film version of the popular Anne of Green Gables: The Musical. Additional coverage has appeared in The Toronto Star and on Jezebel.

UPDATE: According to this story on the CBC news website, this project will be filmed in Prince Edward Island!

Announcing The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1

The L.M. Montgomery Reader 1Announcing the forthcoming publication of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, which will be published by University of Toronto Press in October 2013.

An exciting new collection, The L.M. Montgomery Reader assembles significant rediscovered primary materials on one of Canada’s most enduringly popular authors throughout her high-profile career as the author of the resoundingly successful Anne of Green Gables (1908) and after her death. Each of its three volumes gathers pieces published all over the world to set the stage for a much-needed reassessment of Montgomery’s literary reputation. Much of the material is freshly unearthed from archives and digital collections and has never before been collected in book form.

The selections appearing in this first volume focus on Montgomery’s role as a public celebrity, giving a strong impression of her as a writer and cultural critic as she discusses a range of topics with wit, wisdom, and humour, including the natural landscape of Prince Edward Island, her wide readership, anxieties about modernity, and the continued relevance of “old ideals.” These essays and interviews are joined by a number of additional pieces that discuss her work’s literary and cultural value in relation to an emerging canon of Canadian literature, with nearly one hundred selections in all.

Each volume is accompanied by an extensive introduction and detailed commentary by leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre that trace the interplay between the author and the critic, as well as between the private and public Montgomery. This volume – and the Reader as a whole – adds tremendously to our understanding and appreciation of Montgomery’s legacy as a Canadian author and as a literary celebrity both during and beyond her lifetime.

CFP: L.M. Montgomery and War (26–29 June 2014)

University of Prince Edward Island, 26–29 June 2014

Please note that the deadline for submissions is now 15 August 2013

“And you will tell your children of the Idea we fought and died for—teach them it must be lived for as well as died for, else the price paid for it will have been given for nought.” — Rilla of Ingleside (1921)

“I am thankful now, Jem, that Walter did not come back … and if he had seen the futility of the sacrifice they made then mirrored in this ghastly holocaust …” — The Blythes Are Quoted (2009)

The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, a global conflict that would prove life-changing for L.M. Montgomery and millions of her contemporaries. For the eleventh biennial conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island, we invite proposals for papers that consider war in relation to L.M. Montgomery’s fiction, poetry, life writing, photographs, and scrapbooks, and the range of adaptations and spinoffs in the areas of film, television, theatre, tourism, and online communities.

Montgomery’s 1921 novel Rilla of Ingleside is one of the only contemporary accounts of Canadian women’s experience on the homefront during the First World War, but the War is evoked and implied in direct and indirect ways in many of the novels, short stories, and poems that precede and follow it. The Blythes Are Quoted, Montgomery’s final published work, bridges the years between the First World War and the Second World War, complicating Montgomery’s perspectives and thoughts about war and conflict. Montgomery’s work has met with a variety of responses world-wide during times of war and rebellion, from post-WWII Japan to today’s Middle Eastern countries. Different kinds of wars and rebellions also permeate her fiction and life writing—class conflicts, family disputes, gender and language wars—sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic. This conference seeks to take stock of the complex ways in which war in all its forms has influenced Montgomery’s works and their reception, both in Canada and around the world.

Possible topics include: the Great War anticipated, revisited, remembered, and re-imagined; the politics of gendered witnessing; Montgomery’s reception in times of war and conflict; chivalry, patriarchy, conflict, and romance in poetry and fiction; war as an agent of change; internal and external rebellion in relation to war; the psychology of war in battle and on the homefront.

Proposals should clearly articulate the proposed paper’s argument and demonstrate familiarity with current scholarship in the field (please see http://lmmresearch.org/bibliography for an updated bibliography). For more information, please contact the conference co-chairs, Dr. Benjamin Lefebvre (ben@roomofbensown.net) and Dr. Andrea McKenzie (acmcken@gmail.com). Submit a proposal of 200–250 words, a biographical statement of 70 words, and a list of A/V requirements by 15 August 2013 by using our online form at the L.M. Montgomery Institute website at http://www.lmmontgomery.ca/. Proposals for workshops, exhibits, films, and performances are also welcomed. Since all proposals are vetted blind, they should include no identifying information.

The “Buxom Blonde” Controversy of 2013

Guest Post by Melanie Fishbane

“Yes, it’s red,” she said resignedly. “Now you see why I can’t be perfectly happy. Nobody could who had red hair…I cannot imagine that red hair away…It will be my lifelong sorrow.”

Well, even if Anne had been happier as a “buxom blonde,” it seems that her fans have a definite opinion about her lifelong sorrow.

Controversial AGG coverWhen Josie Leavitt’s piece on how the cover on a recent Anne of Green Gables e-book collection could ruin a book went viral, it caused an international reaction that was so intense that it might have had Anne rethink her stand on red hair. The new edition, released in November under Amazon’s CreateSpace self-publishing operation, featured a blonde woman probably in her early 20s, dressed like a farm girl out of a 1980s jeans ad, and leaning over provocatively.

CBC Radio was one of the first to pick up the story on their show “As it Happens,” which aired on the 6 February, and featured Mary Beth Cavert, who had some interesting things to say about how Montgomery felt about the cover. I loved it when she joked about meeting Gilbert behind the hay stacks and if Montgomery had had an iPhone she would have “pitched it.”

After that everything from the local newspaper to the evening news, you couldn’t escape this story. Even This Hour Has 22 Minutes (a satirical news hour program on CBC) wrote a hilarious sketch that led to some troubling hair dye issues. It even drowned out another amusing anecdotal story on Boing Boing that suggested that a middle-aged Anne of Ingleside had herpes. (A week later CBC tried to rekindle the flame, but it seems that being blonde was more controversial than having an STD.)

Interestingly, this cover is just one of many odd Anne covers surfacing online through digital channels. Many of Montgomery’s books are now in the public domain so any e-book publisher can slap on a cover and use it. I suspect that CreateSpace didn’t make a conscious decision about what cover to use, but was most likely blind merchandising without awareness of what kind of kerfuffle it could create. Perhaps it just so happened that the blonde beat out the three-year-old in the red-poppied garden because it just made a better news story.

At the last Montgomery conference, L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory, there was a lot of discussion around how Montgomery and Anne are remembered as part of our cultural Canadian consciousness. And while some articles, such as The Toronto Star, used a stock photo from Kevin Sullivan’s version of Anne played by Megan Follows as a way to compare our collectively approved version of Anne to the blasphemous one, what seems clear is that the public has a very specific idea of who Anne Shirley is and woe betide anyone that re-imagines her otherwise.

The public wants the image of a red-headed dreamy and deviant orphan girl looking out to the precipices of what will be, because that is the Anne people remember from their childhood. And memory is more precious than e-book sales.