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.

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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.).

A Collection of Notes & Texts from Sandra L. Beckett’s Red Riding Hood Criticism Trilogy

Warja Lavater's Le petit chaperone rouge

As I prepare to visit Wayne State next week, I am forced to go through my library books and remove tabs and/or take notes before I return the books to the library. I find myself reluctant to do so, probably … Continue reading

AFS & Watercolor Class

Hello all! I’ve been MIA for a while now, I know, and I do apologize. That being said, it may continue for a bit still.

I finally finished all my conferences for this year, and the American Folklore Society annual meeting was a *wonderful* conference to end on. I bought some great book from Wayne State Press, with signatures by authors, and met so many of my favorite fairy-tale scholars. It was both a networking success and just plain fun! (In case your wondering, the books I purchased are Kimberly J. Lau’s Erotic Infidelities: Love and Enchantment in Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Channeling Wonder: Fairy Tales on Television edited by Pauline Greenhill and Jill Terry Rudy.)

Since then, I’ve been focusing on job and postdoc applications, and they do seems to be eating up my life. I’m hoping to get the next set submitted soon so that I can return my attention to finishing my next dissertation chapter on Elizabeth Gaskell’s gothic fairy tales.

However, I have continued my attendance at my community watercolor class, which I first discussed here, and I am pleased with my progress there as well. I’ve included the two latest paintings that I’ve finished and I’m about to begin another on my service dog, Oakley. Once this session is done, though, I’ll be taking a break to avoid driving in the snow (which has been here for a week already) and to really focus on my dissertation as defense time approaches. I’ll probably start back up again after my defense in March, since it really is a wonderful stress reliever for me.

white-tailed deer watercolor

This one was tough, but I’m pleased with the result. The photo I used as inspiration can be found here.

Bird Watercolor

This was just fun to do–I love all the colors. It was inspired by another watercolor that I found via Pinterest. I’m not sure who the original artist is but I’d be happy to credit them if someone could let me know!

 

A Possible Answer to “Generic Intersections: The Fairy Tale and the Romance”

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post questioning the distinction between the Romantic Romance, as described by Jacqueline M. Labbe in Romantic Paradox, and the fairy tale. Happily, I have stumbled upon a possible and/or partial answer to my concerns while composing my American Folklore Society conference presentation on Elizabeth Gaskell.

Ruth B. Bottigheimer explains in Fairy Tales: A New History,

Restoration fairy tales grew seamlessly out of the medieval romances that preceded them, retaining their chivalric locations, courtly activities, and royal characters. Precursor plots about the restoration of displaced and suffering royal figures who returned to their rightful position are nearly as old as storytelling itself, as are many of the motifs that characterize restoration fairy tales. In the 1500s this traditional plot took on a new and abbreviated form as brief tales of princes and princesses whose expulsion and suffering are relieved by magic and marriage” (24)

For those readers unfamiliar with the term “restoration fairy tales,” Bottigheimer included a lovely diagram for explanation, which I have attempted to reproduce here:

royal origins *                                                  * royal restoration

\                                                   /

\                                            /

\                                     /

\                              /

\                       /

^^^^^^^^^ 

(tasks, tests, trials, and sufferings)

*(Adapted from Bottigheimer 11)*

While Bottigheimer is discussing medieval rather than Romantic romances, the connection between the romance and the fairy tale is made explicitly clear. What is left to determine is what is the distinction between medieval, Romantic, and gothic romances…

Colloquium Presentation at University of St. Thomas

prezi, letitia landon, LEL, Literary Annual, Fairy Tales

My Prezi (image only–link below)

So I’ve completed my first invited talk, “Marry for Money: Love in Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s Letters and Fairy Tales”–yay! It was exhausting to speak for so long in addition to the prep, so today is mostly a day off. But sharing my research and seeing old professors and new students was a blast. I absolutely love the St. Thomas’s English department faculty and staff, and since I was a student there for six years for my BA and MA, I think my continuing love for the department says a lot. That the faculty and staff continue to care about me years after I graduated is equally notable. 🙂

Now that I’ve gushed over my alma mater, I’ll leave this post with the Prezi that accompanied my presentation (links below since I seem unable to get the prezi embedded) and a photo from the event.

http://prezi.com/embed/rt4acdi1szyq/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0#

http://prezi.com/rt4acdi1szyq/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

Presentation Preparation & Tips

Ann Macbeth's "The Sleeping Beauty"

Ann Macbeth’s “The Sleeping Beauty”

I’ve been off routine for a few weeks as I recover from surgery to remove my gall bladder, but I’m slowly trying to get back into work mode and first up (you know, other than job letters and putting the finishing touches on my latest chapter) is preparing for my colloquium presentation at the University of St. Thomas in a few weeks.

I’ve been going back and forth on what format I want to use for the visual aspect of my presentation: PowerPoint or Prezi. I’ve never really been a fan of PowerPoints. They always felt a bit unwieldy and in the classroom I’ve found I far prefer using a couple wiki pages that allow for easy transitions and scrolling rather than flipping through slides to return to previous info. However, I’ve never had such a long presentation (~40 minutes of me talking) to plan for, so some kind of visual component is a must and the wiki isn’t going to work.

However, it seems more and more like PowerPoint is rather passé. I can’t guarantee that my Prezi will be anything more amazing than PowerPoint slides would be, but I figure it is still my best choice. There is at least the opportunity for more creativity and to learn more familiarity with a new visual presentation system.

So I’ll conclude this post with a Prezi offering presentation tips which I found helpful. In particular, the information regarding the number of slides (minimum and optimum) for the length of the talk was eye opening. Perhaps I’ll share my Prezi when it’s complete and/or any new Prezi tips I come across as I move through the process.

http://prezi.com/yyqttpipui4h/?utm_campaign=share&utm_medium=copy

http://prezi.com/embed/1vno843ijfdz/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=0&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&features=undefined&disabled_features=undefined

Generic Intersections: The Fairy Tale & The Romance

My fascination with the fairy-tale genre should be obvious by now. It has sustained me for years, academically since 2008 and my introduction to Anne Sexton’s Transformations, but since childhood in the form of Disney (in particular The Little Mermaid) and bedtime stories from a big illustrated book of Grimms’ fairy tales. In the last couple of years, the literary annual has entered into my list of favorite genres, and today I will be adding the romance.

labbe romantic paradox

Labbe’s The Romantic Paradox

Jacqueline M. Labbe’s The Romantic Paradox: Love, Violence and the Uses of Romance, 1760-1830 (2000) has blown my mind. I came across Labbe’s book while researching Letitia Landon, and I definitely was not disappointed in her analysis of Landon’s work, especially given that it largely supports my own interpretation of Landon’s subversive use of the fairy tale. Without going into great detail, Labbe basically argues that Landon subverts the romance genre and in doing so expresses a profound disillusionment. Moreover, she characterizes Landon as an authorial femme fatale, symbolically ruining or killing the romance even while she utilizes it for her own purposes. (How can I not squee over such a beautiful overlap of so many of my favorite topics and themes?)

But while Labbe’s analysis of Landon was both exciting and eye-opening, her discussion of the romance genre has caused me to seriously reflect on the intersections of this genre and the fairy-tale genre that has held my interest for so long. Labbe begins her introduction as follows:

“The Romance has always had a bad press within Romanticism. As a genre, its associations with women readers and writers and assumptions of its inherent inferiority to, for instance, the epic, the ode, or even the sonnet have for many readers contained its power; as a plot-line, its fabled preoccupation with love and fantasy has limited its appeal. The romance is rule-bound, immature, feminised and predictable: readers know the outcome before the story even begins.” (Labbe 1)

Already the similarity to the fairy tale (and even the literary annual) is apparent: its a fluffy genre, appropriate for women to write and read, includes elements of romantic love and fantastic magic, and is formulaic.

Labbe then discusses what she calls “the Romantic romance,” or the romance as interpreted by Romantic poets:

“The Romantic romance contains all the necessary ingredients, although not always at the same time: a love relationship central to the plot; a hero, heroine and villain; journeys, adventure and escapes; the supernatural or magical. Importantly, however, it largely dispenses with ‘happily ever after’; lovers meet, love, are parted, but seldom are reunited, and if they are, it is seldom to good effect. Instead of celebrating their happiness, the Romantic romance utilises their distress; it finds in the elements of the romance justification for pursuing a changed romance. [. . .] The traditional romance is inherently deeply conservative in its gender constructions; indeed, many gender stereotypes about strong heroes and passive, beautiful heroines are directly traceable to its plot. The Romantic romance throws down a challenge to the romance of gender; subverting the familiar angles of plot, the Romantic romance reveals the emptiness of generic rhetoric.” (Labbe 2-3)

Romanticism has ever been a period that I’ve struggled to get into and interact with. My fascination with Landon and with the figure of the femme fatale (as seen in the poetry of Coleridge and Keats) has enabled me to find a foothold in the period, but I am now fascinated by Labbe’s Romantic romance. What she describes as the Romantic romance directly ties in with what fascinates me about the proto-feminist fairy tales I’m currently writing about: largely, the upset of the “happily ever after” and gender stereotypes.

Even more similarities can be found when Labbe later discusses the instructive nature of the romance. She writes in the first chapter,

“In many ways, the moral of the conventional romance is the preservation and strengthening of the status quo [. . .] Romance offered, even demanded, the continuation of a lifestyle where strength and goodness were rewarded, gender distinctions (mostly) upheld, men protected women, social classes were strictly observed and believed in.” (Labbe 33)

Inherent to the traditional fairy tale is the moral, an aspect of the genre that was explicit in some cases, such as the fairy tales of Perrault. Furthermore, Perrault’s fairy tales were written to educate and instruct children in their courtly gender roles. While the fairy tales of the French conteuses of the same time period were more subversive, attempting to expand women’s role in society, many fairy tales throughout the centuries are more concerned with the reification of cultural mores than with the transformation of social expectations and society in general. The classical fairy tale would therefore seem to have much in common with the “conventional romance.”

My knowledge of the romance genre, and the Romantic romance in particular, is still very basic and incomplete, but I am very pleased to have found another point of interest in the Romantic period. Perhaps more importantly, Labbe has caused me to question how much of my discussion of proto-feminist fairy tales is perhaps more a discussion of Romantic romance or proto-feminist romance. The same generic playfulness and/or subversion is present not only in Landon’s fairy tales but also in those that come later in the century. Could there be a Victorian romance waiting to be revealed? And how much do the genres of the romance and the fairy tale crossover? Is there a distinction that I’m missing? While such classic tales such as “Little Red Riding Hood” seem to share little with the romance, fairy tales such as “Cinderella” seem to share much with the romance.

Such intersections are certainly worth pondering more. But for now, I’ll leave you with a final fascinating quotation from Labbe:

“As the century progresses and the romance becomes ever more popular and widespread, it also gains the ability to engage directly with the violence it describes: texts become metaphorically blood-soaked as human relations disintegrate into an anti-fairy-tale world of dying unhappily ever after.” (Labbe 4, my emphasis)

Happy Never After by Saint Hoax: Disney & Domestic Abuse

Happy Never After

“An awareness campaign targeting any girl / woman who has been subject to domestic violence. The aim of the poster series is to encourage victims to report their cases in order for the authorities to prevent it from happening again.”

Saint Hoax Batter Cinderella

via Happy Never After.

I was introduced to Saint Hoax’s “Happy Never After” series of posters featuring Disney princesses as domestic abuse victims via this Jezebel article. As described on the artist’s website (and quoted above) these posters are intended to encourage awareness, reporting, and prevention of domestic violence, and while there have been several variations on the topics of both domestic violence and Disney princesses, this one by Saint Hoax struck me as particularly effective.

Featuring a battered Cinderella, Jasmine (Alladin), Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and Ariel (The Little Mermaid), each poster has the same caption:

“WHEN DID HE STOP TREATING YOU LIKE A PRINCESS? It’s never too late to put an end to it.”

I think part of what makes this series so powerful is that it gets right to a basic, pervasive cultural belief: marriage and romance leads to happily ever after.

Teaching fairy tales last semester, I asked my students for the components that form the genre of the fairy tale (What is a fairy tale?), and I was stunned by the number of students, especially female students, who insisted that fairy tales need to have a romantic component. Likely drawing on cultural ideas concerning the fairy-tale wedding and the wedding day as a bride’s chance to be treated and look like a princess, not to mention the heavy influence of Disney’s princess films on their conception of fairy tales, for these female students, fairy tales are inseparable from the marriage plot. Happily ever after weddings were so essential to the fairy tale that most of these students were more than willing to discount and discard stories that did not feature this romantic component as not being fairy tales. Furthermore, when my students were asked to write their own original fairy tale, almost all featured a romantic plot, even those written by students who did not explicitly include romance and marriage as part of their definition of the fairy-tale genre.

So for adults and young adults like my students last semester, who cannot separate weddings and marriage from fairy tales, these posters seem particularly impactful. These Disney princesses, these epitomes of feminine beauty that lead to a presumably happily ever after wedding, live on in perfection after the end of their respective Disney films (sequels not withstanding). So to show that even these women might be abused, that the models of happily ever after romance might not live up to their own mythology, is, I think, profound.

It also may help to alleviate shame in a similar manner. If Cinderella can be fooled, if the male perfection of Prince Charming can be a deceitful masking of an abusive boyfriend or husband, then the idea that a “regular,” flesh and blood contemporary woman might make the same mistake of finding herself in an abusive relationship is a lot less surprising or even embarrassing. If a “real” princess can be abused and presumably stand up to and leave her abusing, princely husband, then so can the every woman.

I am constantly intrigued by the many ways Disney princesses are reinvented by artists (and I actually have a Pinterest board basically devoted to the topic), but this poster series by Saint Hoax stands out among the crowd for me. Reminiscent of the less “pretty” and more violent and dark fairy tales of previous centuries, these posters help remove the Disney veneer of perfection and utter happiness, and for a good cause. As visual rhetoric, I think “Happy Never After” succeeds in communicating its message, and I think these images would prove to be useful subjects of discussion in both the basic composition and fairy tale classroom, probably (possibly?) with a trigger warning in advance to prepare any student victims of domestic abuse. (Trigger warnings have been a topic of debate this year and The Chronicle of Education and other publications have featured several articles on the topic, including this one and this one. I also responded to a practicum discussion on the topic in this previous post, although I haven’t decided how I feel about the subject of trigger warnings overall.)