Reflections on 2014 and Resolutions for 2015

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Hello, 2015!

I have found myself super excited to begin this new year and a new phase in my life. So excited, in fact, that I woke up at 5am and couldn’t fall back to sleep! While I’ll remedy my lack of sleep with a nap later today, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the amazingness that was 2014 and document my plans, expectations, and resolutions for 2015.

To say that February 2014 was a good month is an understatement. I received a series of amazing notifications:  I was awarded a travel grant for a conference presentation, a fellowship to complete my dissertation during the 2014-15 academic year, followed by another fellowship to work on my dissertation during the summer of 2014, and notification that I was selected to present at Wayne State’s 2014 Graduate Research Exhibition. This was all cherry-topped with the news that my article on Mary de Morgan, “Seeds of Subversion in Mary de Morgan’s ‘The Seeds of Love,’” was accepted for publication pending revision. (This article has since been accepted for publication and will appear in Marvels & Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies, volume 29, issue 2 in 2015).

Yet beyond the this excellent news, February 2014 validated my original evaluation of my research and dissertation project: it is worthwhile and important. Before entering my doctoral program, I had not doubted that my research was important. I was shocked to find how very little had been written on the topic of 19th c. fairy tales by women when I first became interested in Mary de Morgan. Most scholarship on the topic is to be found in anthologies of the tales themselves, but these are usually on the topic fairy tales in general or Victorian fairy tales (many if not most written by men). The opportunity for innovative scholarship on the topic was (and still is) practically wide-open and the need to “rediscover” and/or bring to scholarly light the works of neglected female authors persists. But despite my own enthusiasm for my research, doctoral programs were far less enthusiastic. It was made explicitly clear to me by the DGS that I was accepted NOT for my interest in Victorian fairy tales but instead for the list of additional research interests I included in my purpose statement, such as women’s literature in general and sensation novels. I was admitted in spite of my research in fairy tales, not because of it.

But with the help of February 2014, I was finally able to put aside my inferiority complex regarding my research on 19th-century British fairy tales by women. Despite the general consensus that I will not be hired for my work on fairy tales, people are more than happy to hear me discuss them at conferences. And I have clearly become quite adept at selling my research to earn funding, as the multiple fellowships, research awards, and travel grants indicate. Surprisingly, the DGS assured me that I was awarded the Rumble Fellowship by a unanimous vote of the department’s graduate committee. So while at the beginning of my doctoral program, my research in and of itself was not valuable or scholarly enough, I now find that this perception has changed as I quickly approach graduation:  Perhaps fairy-tale research is undervalued, but *my* fairy-tale research is worthwhile AND worth funding.

Beyond the flurry of activity in February, 2014 saw me make a lot of progress on my dissertation. In fact, I submitted my 5th chapter (of 6 chapters) to my director on Jan. 1, 2015. All that remains is 1 more chapter and an introduction, so I am very much on track to defend in early March and graduate in May. I also moved “home” to MN to finish my dissertation writing and perform archival research on the British literary annual at the U of MN. I returned to University of St. Thomas for an invited presentation on Letitia Elizabeth Landon and the proto-feminist fairy tales she published in literary annuals as well as to sit on a panel discussing what could be done with a BA in English (the audience of this panel was a classroom of English majors). I also presented at several conferences, all on the topic of my dissertation research, and have applied for several teaching positions for 2015-16.

Additionally, I returned to physical therapy for some balance work, and I began taking watercolor classes. I also utilized HabitRPG to encourage the development of new and productive habits and to meet the various goals I have set for myself, including periodic blogging.

I feel confident stating that 2014 has been a wonderfully productive and successful year for me.

As I look forward to 2015, I anticipate my dissertation defense and the conferral of my Ph.D. I am particularly looking forward to leaving behind my student status after 10 consecutive years of higher education. I want to experience adulthood that is about working rather than studying, and I very much want to settle down into a stable job that will offer me the same challenges I have come to enjoy over the last 10 years.

I have further found that I have missed teaching while I have been on fellowship. I have not missed grading, but I do miss the interaction with students, the development of courses, course topics, learning objectives, lesson plans, and assignments, as well as witnessing students’ “aha” moments. I have also missed the class rapport and discussions, and as I work on writing my dissertation, I wish I could share my writing process with my students and inspire them to continue writing every day. I therefore plan to return to the classroom, to teach new courses and help new students, and perhaps to use my recent interest in online pedagogy to teach a hybrid or online course in 2015.

Additional resolutions:

  1. Read Dickens’ novels, 1 chapter a day, beginning with Oliver Twist, to try to duplicate the serialized original and experience if the novels appear less overwhelming in small pieces (to perhaps implement in the classroom).
  2. Become more active to reverse some of the unhealthy effects of sitting to read and write every day, as well as to possibly increase my balance and strength deficits.
  3. Work on publishing my dissertation.
  4. Begin new research projects and continue current ones on topics ranging from the literary annual, the femme fatale, Letitia Landon, etc.
  5. Enjoy the experience of transitioning from student to professional!

I’m sure I’ve forgotten to note some of the fantastic events of 2014 as well as some of my plans for 2015, but I’ll leave it at that. It has been a fantastic year of discovery and success and I hope that continues in 2015. Essentially, I hope to continue working my passion.

Seeing the Fruits of My Labor: Writing on the Results of My Literary Annual Archival Research

I am thrilled to be recommencing my fifth dissertation chapter, which is to be submitted Jan. 1st. I’ve already started discussing defense dates with my committee, and knowing I will soon have a firm deadline for my dissertation is both exciting and somewhat terrifying at the same time . . . but mostly exciting. It’s really nice seeing my project come together and begin to form a whole. It’s also really wonderful to anticipate just being done, at least for a while, and having a few weeks to breathe and relax. We’ll see if that break actually happens, but it’s still a lovely thought even if it’s a lie. 🙂

I’ve also had the pleasure of revisiting my literary annual research that I performed last summer as I’ve returned to my chapter on fairy-tale adaptations in the literary annual. One issue I’m dealing with now is that at least half of the literary-annual contributions are published anonymously, so I have no way of knowing whether the author is male or female–not normally problematic but given my project is on proto-feminist women authors, it is a hurdle to overcome. Even some of the named contributors are gender neutral: C. De Lisle and the author of “Absurdities,” for instance. (If anyone can direct me to a real name and/or bio for these nineteenth-century authors, I’d be most appreciative!) 

But in the case of one folktale, I’m really excited with my find: Anna Brownell Jameson’s “Halloran the Pedlar.” I’ve included my intro to my analysis of the story below. It isn’t much yet, but it’s an exciting beginning to an end.

Title Page from the 1828 Bijou

Title Page from the 1828 Bijou

HALLORAN THE PEDLAR:  An Irish Story

Anna Brownell Jameson offers her readers another strong female protagonist in “Halloran the Pedlar: An Irish Story.” Published in the 1828 volume of The Bijou: or Annual of Literature and the Arts, “Halloran the Pedlar” is, despite its title, not about the character of Halloran; instead, the short story features an illiterate Irish peasant as its heroine, namely Cathleen Reilly, whose simple nature disguises a will of steel that is displayed as her control and senses are tested during a trek to Cork to see her husband before he is sent overseas with his troop. In The Bijou, the story is attributed to “the writer of the ‘Diary of an Ennuyée’” rather than to Jameson by name, perhaps because this text became popular after its publication in 1826. Such an attribution (“to the author of”) was not uncommon in the literary annuals, especially in their early years, as publishers and editors at first tried to attract consumers with famous contributors.

Before beginning my analysis of the story, it is relevant to note Anna Brownell Jameson’s personal life. Born in Dublin in 1794, Jameson was largely self-educated,[1] and she became a governess when she was sixteen. It was her position as a governess that sent her to Italy and inspired The Diary of an Ennuyée. Anna married Robert Jameson in 1825, but by 1829, the two were separated and “Anna was making no secret of unhappiness in her marriage” (Thomas n.p). As Clara Thomas explains in her biography, Anna Jameson had proto-feminist leanings: “From the beginning of her writing career Anna Jameson stressed the importance of better education for women. She was a determined, though conservative, early feminist, one of the many in her generation who were increasingly vocal about their rights in law and their needs and opportunities in society” (n.p.). This position on women’s education is evident in “Halloran the Pedlar,” and Jameson’s proto-feminism emerges in the characterization of and focus on the heroine Cathleen. Thomas further notes that with the publication of Visits and Sketches at Home and Abroad in 1834, “For it, as for all her future works, Anna Jameson was now assured of a reading public; she had become an established author” (n.p.). “Halloran the Pedlar” precedes this confirmed success although it follows her first entrance onto the literary scene with The Diary of an Ennuyée, and that book’s success caused Jameson to “became the “lioness” of the hour in London society” (Thomas n.p.).

[1] According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, “For a time the Murphys could afford a governess, whom Anna remembered as “one of the cleverest women I have ever met.” Before the family moved to London, however, she had gone; henceforth the sisters’ education progressed with Anna in charge” (Thomas n.p.).

Genre Activity: 19th C. Periodicals & Dickens Journal Online

While I have incorporated fairy tales into teaching genre in a composition course, below is an excellent “genre activity” that pulls from my field of 19th century British literature. It is an actual competition, if you are interested in writing for Dickens’ Household Words, but the instructions seem to also fit a writing assignment emphasizing genre, audience, and publication format. It also encourages the use of technology and the exploration of Victorian culture and literature. Moreover, at least until Nov. 15, 2014, it is a real-world writing assignment, writing that serves a purpose outside of the classroom. I could envision using this writing assignment in a general composition course, but also in an introduction to literature or 19th c. survey course. Has anyone taught a similar assignment? If so, was it successful?

Competition Announcement–Deadline Extended!

Written by John Drew

We are delighted to announce our first LITERARY JOURNALISM COMPETITION. Write an article (reportage, sketch, exposé, informative factual account, digest, etc.), short story, instalment of serial fiction, or poem(s), suitable for publication in a weekly number of Household Words or All the Year Round. If you are not sure what to write, browse the contents of either journal, using the navigation tools above. Minimum word-length is 1,500 words/60 lines of poetry; maximum word-length is 2,000 words. No author’s name should appear on the pages of your entry: name and contact details should be supplied as a separate final sheet, to permit anonymous judging.

Send your entry to djo@buckingham.ac.uk as an e-mail attachment, by midnight on Saturday, 15 November 2014; at the same time, make the minimum donation using the ‘Charities Aid Foundation’ widget on the right of our homepage, to cover entry costs. Once your entry and your donation have been matched up, your entry will be passed to an expert panel of judges. Short-listed entrants will be informed by the end of November; winners will be announced during the Festive Season Details of prizes given on website; winning entries will be typeset in an ‘Extra Twenty-First-Century Number,’ available by Christmas. We hope you enjoy participating!

via Welcome to DJO.

HabitRPG: I (aka my avatar) Died!

Since beginning my archival research on the Victorian literary annual, I have been exhausted. Simply exhausted. The Bell Library, which houses the Wilson Library Special Collections and Rare Books, is only open from noon to five o’clock during the summer, and yet even as little as three hours of research knocks me out, and it’s not just due to the quality of the texts I’m reading (most are fascinating but there are admittedly some doozies that could easily put a reader to sleep).

Yet other than my general fatigue, my research has had a most disastrous effect on my HabitRPG success since this morning I died (gasp!).

HabitRPG.com Avatar

My Avatar (dressed as a mermaid and riding a desert wolf)

I’ve been falling behind on my habits and dailies the last few weeks and my health bar has consequently been dropping. This was, however, avoidable, had I been paying attention (I could have bought a health potion to stave off death). Alas, I hadn’t realized my precarious position and failed to do so.

Dramatics aside, “death” in the game is not so bad I’m finding. I lost a level (no big deal), 1 item (in my case an arch mage hat that can easily be repurchased), and all my gold (sad but again, not a big deal).

But it was enough of a shock to (hopefully) re-motivate me to push past the exhaustion to be productive. (Although I make no guarantees…Even as I write this, I would love to go back to bed.)

Moreover, the question I had regarding what happens when your HabitRPG avatar dies has been answered. 🙂

Literary Annual Research @ U of MN

Once August hit, my summer went from relaxingly productive to complete craziness, hence my recent lack of posts. Between a full schedule and exhaustion, blogging has not been high on my list of priorities. In addition to moving, unpacking, and physical therapy, I’ve also begun my archival research at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities Libraries, and this is the topic of today’s post.

A professor first mentioned the Victorian literary annual to me during my first semester in my doctoral program; in my second semester, I began researching the genre for a book history course. (I’ve written on the topic previously here and here.) Now, the literary annual is playing a major role in my dissertation as one of the genres I’m investigating (along with fairy tale collections and poetry and short story collections).

I’m fascinated by the history of the literary annual. Marketed as appropriate reading and gifts for young middle-class women, the annual featured luxurious bindings (such as red silk) and state of the art steel-plate engravings. These engravings were the real appeal of the annuals, as the poetry, short stories, and nonfiction texts were written to accompany the engravings. Moreover, the genre was increasingly “feminized,” as women increasingly edited, wrote, and read the literary annuals. Published between 1823 and 1857, at the height of their popularity more than 60 different annuals were published in a single year.

Perhaps because they were considered feminine, as well as because the engravings rather than the texts were the selling point, critics since the genre’s debut have considered the literary annual to be fluff rather than literature, and the literary annual has only become a source of scholarly interest in the last few decades. So there is plenty of work to be done with the annuals, in particular with the literary contributions that have been overlooked in favor of the genre’s intriguing history as a book-object.

I was thrilled to discover that the University of MN has an extensive collection of British (and American) literary annuals; as a side note, those interested in exploring the catalog should search under “gift books” rather than literary annuals. Holdings are available in regular collections that are loanable as well as in various special collections, including those held at the Andersen Library and Wilson/Bell Library. I’ve included my current batch of special collection annuals in the spreadsheet image below.

Literary Annual Holdings (Incomplete) @ U of MN

The literary annuals I’m currently accessing at the U of MN

Although my research has only begun, I’ve already found some literary gems although they are not quite what I’m looking for for my dissertation. Fingers crossed that my theory is proven true as I continue my research into the fascinating world of the British Victorian Literary Annual!