Thursday, April 23, 2009

Branwell, depression and a Brontë weekend

Some Brontë alerts for today, April 23 and tomorrow April 24:

1. In Scarborough, at the Scarborough Literature Festival there's a talk with one of those descriptions that invites to... run away from it. We hope that the real thing will be better than the description:

Branwell vs. Brontë Sisters
Time: 7.00 pm
Venue: Scarborough Library Concert Hall
Running Time: 90 minutes
Price: £4

Did Charlotte poison her sisters? Did Branwell write Wuthering Heights? What was mysterious about Anne? Four local writers: Pauline Kirk, Alison Morgan, Adrian Spendlow and director Helen M Sant present a tribute to the lives of the Brontes blending their own poetry, journal and storytelling with the Brontes' original works.
More information can be read on The Scarborough Evening News.

2. A talk given at the Pittsburg State University by Dr. Susan Carlson:
The College of Arts and Sciences
2008-2009 Lecture Series
Apr 23

“How Clinical Depression Affected the Creative Process of Three Women Writers: Mary Shelley, Charlotte Brontë, and Florence Nightingale”

Dr. Susan Carlson, PSU Department of English

There has been a great deal of mystery surrounding mental illness and creative writers. For centuries, mental illness has been romanticized as part of a true artist’s character. Certainly there is a long list of writers who battled mental illness for most of their lives, while still producing great art. Psychiatry has debated the connection between mental illness and creativity for years. In 1996, the psychiatrist Kay Redfield Jamison wrote a bestselling book Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament, in which she argues that the highs from bipolar disorder may have energized the creative processes of writers like Lord Byron and Virginia Woolf.
But what about clinical depression, which has no highs and instead induces symptoms that seem to go in the opposite direction of creativity: lethargy, consistent melancholy, and mental slowness? How can a writer, no matter how gifted, be trapped in this illness and still create great art? This is even more of a question in the 19th century, when patients had no access to effective medication, and untreated depression tended to worsen over time. To approach this question, I’m studying three women writers who all battled clinical depression: Mary Shelley, Charlotte Brontë, and Florence Nightingale.
Mary Shelley ( 1797-1851), the author of Frankenstein, spent most of her life in a state of suicidal depression, but was still able to support herself as a novelist, and wrote a novel, The Last Man, which is considered a classic in science fiction. Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) wrote her last, great novel, Villette, while fighting a depressive state that made it almost impossible for her to function. And Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), though known now as the founder of modern nursing, suffered several mental breakdowns as a young woman. It was only after she wrote her feminist treatise, Cassandra, that she was able to find an effective way to fight her family’s objections, and begin what was then a scandalous career as a nurse. Though Nightingale, before and after her time in the Crimea, fought against severe mental illness and physical collapse, she was able to write the nursing texts and pursue the activism that founded her profession.
In the presentation, I will focus on the writers during the years they produced art under tremendous mental stress: Mary Shelley with The Last Man, Charlotte Brontë with Villette, and Florence Nightingale with Cassandra. In discussing this topic, I’ll be integrating information from a variety of disciplines: medical history for the treatment of depression in 19th century Britain, creativity studies, current scientific knowledge on depression, literature, biography, feminism, and the history of nursing. The presentation will also include slides that will help the audience understand current knowledge of mental illness, and its treatment in the 19th century.
Susan Anne Carlson has been a professor in the English Department at Pittsburg State University since 1991. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. at The Ohio State University, and spent a year as a Fulbright Lecturer in Eskisehir, Turkey. Her research on Victorian women writers has been published in several journals, including Brontë Transactions. A chapter on Charlotte Brontë’s juvenilia was published as a chapter of the book entitled Creating Safe Space: Violence and Women’s Writing.

The lecture will begin at 3:30 and is free and open to the public.
More information can be found on the Pittsburgh Morning Sun.

3.
And the Brussels Brontë Group organises several activities for this upcoming weekend:
Friday 24 April to Sunday 26 April 2009
A BRONTË WEEKEND

This programme may be subject to change
All events are open to non-members.

For the third consecutive year we are organising a Brontë weekend around the date of Charlotte Brontë's birthday (21 April), although this year our weekend focuses on Emily Brontë and her writings. Not everyone realises that Emily, like Charlotte, spent some time studying in Brussels, although the influence of her stay in the city is not evident in her work as it is in her sister's. As usual, we have put together a varied programme of events which this year includes talks and music inspired by Emily's poetry.

N.B. Please note that it is essential to register for all the events. To do so please send an email to Helen MacEwan specifying which events you wish to attend (mailto://helen.macewan@ec.europa.eu).

Friday 24 April

13.15: Cemetery excursion led by Eric Ruijssenaars.
The group will visit the site of the former Protestant cemetery where Martha Taylor and Julia Wheelwright, friends of Charlotte and Emily Brontë in Brussels, were originally buried in 1842, and then the city cemetery in Evere, Brussels where they are believed to have been reburied 50 years later, to search for their graves.

For more details and to register for this excursion contact mailto://ericruijssenaars@hotmail.com.

19.30: Drinks followed by readings and musical settings of Emily Brontë poems.
Veronica Metz of the Celtic band Anois (http://www.anois.nl/) will sing some of Emily Brontë's songs set to music by the band.

Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, Room P61, Bld. du Jardin Botanique/Kruidtuinlaan 43, 1000 Brussels
Access map: www.fusl.ac.be/fr/233.html

Entrance charge: €3. Pay at the door.

Saturday 25 April

Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis, Room P61, Bld. du Jardin Botanique/Kruidtuinlaan 43, 1000 Brussels

11.00: Emily Brontë and the Mother World: a talk by Stevie Davies

This year the main theme of the weekend will be Emily Brontë and our speakers will include Stevie Davies, the award-winning novelist, literary critic and biographer, who will give a talk called Emily Brontë and the Mother World.
Emily Brontë grew up, as Charlotte wrote, "a native and nursling of the moors", whose wildlife she saw as in a continuum with human life, on a beautiful but suffering planet. The most intimate portraits she painted were those of her dog, Keeper, and the merlin hawk, Nero: they speak, as do Wuthering Heights and the proto-Darwinian essays Emily wrote in Brussels, of her reverence for and fellowship with the instinctual life of the creatures of earth. Stevie will explore Wuthering Heights with these thoughts in mind
Stevie Davies has written several critical studies of Emily Brontë including Emily Brontë: Heretic (1994). Her novel Four Dreamers and Emily is a moving and funny story of four people brought together at a conference on the Brontës in Haworth.
Entrance charge: €5 for one talk or €8 for the two talks being held today (morning and afternoon). Pay at the door.
Please register as soon as possible if you wish to attend the talk(s).

Break for lunch

15.00: The Brontë sisters' "strong language": a talk by Philip Riley

Why were many contemporaries convinced that the Brontë sisters’ novels and poetry could only have been written by a man? What is the role of dialect and foreign languages in their works – and was Heathcliff originally a speaker of Gaelic? How do politeness and forms of address reflect the tensions between the social and emotional relationships of their characters? These are some of the questions that will be examined briefly in this overview of sociolinguistic aspects of their prose.
Philip Riley is Emeritus Professor of Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Nancy and a former Director of the Centre de Recherches et d’Applications Pédagogiques en Langues. He has written and edited a number of books, the most recent being Domain-Specific English (Peter Lang, 2002), The Bilingual Family (Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed. 2003), Vers une competence plurilingue (Clé International, 2003) and Language, Culture and Identity (Continuum, 2007).
Entrance charge: €5 for one talk or €8 for the two talks being held today (morning and afternoon). Pay at the door.
Please register as soon as possible if you wish to attend the talk(s).

Evening:

19.30: Dinner (details will be posted)

Register with Helen MacEwan if you would like to join other Brontë Group members for a meal.

Sunday 26 April

10.00: A guided walk around Brontë places in Brussels (details will be posted)
Please register as soon as possible if you are interested. There may be a small charge.

12.00: Picnic in the Parc de Bruxelles (weather permitting – details will be posted)

14.00: Meeting of the Brussels Brontë Group (details will be posted)

Contact person: Helen MacEwan (mailto://helen.macewan@ec.europa.eu)
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