Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lucasta Miller writes about her hero(ine), Emily Brontë, for The Guardian in the light of the recent digitalisation of hundreds of manuscripts and documents by the British Library.
What difference does it make to see the original manuscript of a literary text rather than just read the printed version? As someone who once nearly sullied a priceless Charlotte Brontë manuscript in an American archive with one of my own tears, I would say it makes all the difference. Faced with the real thing, my pretensions to being a detached and objective researcher dissolved. [...]
The most fascinating are not the fair copies of great works, written to submit to publishers before the days of typewriters, but the private documents never intended for public eyes. Seeing them as they are offers a transgressive frisson, a sense of intruding on a private space.
This is particularly the case with Emily Brontë's diary entry, written at "past 4 o'clock" on Monday 26 June 1837, now accessible on the British Library's new website. Emily never kept an ongoing journal, only a few fragments offering fly-on-the-wall records of what was going on in Haworth Parsonage at the moment of writing, secret missives intended only for her own eyes and those of her sister Anne, whom she sketches, along with herself, writing at the dining-room table, in this particular example. It shows the way in which Emily's imaginative and real lives intersected: news of characters in her fantasy world of "Gondal" rubs shoulders with a down‑to-earth record of the fact that Charlotte is at that very moment upstairs sewing, listening to Branwell read aloud. The entry ends with a transcription of an actual conversation, as Emily and Anne discuss the possibility of going out on the moors before evening to get into the mood for writing. But we will never know whether or not they did so. Emily, as ever, remains fugitive.
TES thinks that the digitalisation of these papers may help students connect with classic authors.
Children are so accustomed to school visits from modern authors that they can struggle to see classic writers as real people, according to Jacqueline Wilson.
The best-selling children’s author said: “Modern authors have become well-known because they do so many school and library visits.” Her novels, which include The Story of Tracy Beaker, are regularly among the most-borrowed from British libraries.
“The problem is that classic authors like Noel Streatfeild, Robert Louis Stevenson and Louisa May Alcott can’t really strut their stuff around the schools,” she added.
Ms Wilson was speaking to TES in response to a survey published this week, which shows that 82 per cent of English teachers see pupils struggling to identify with classic authors such as Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë.
The British Library survey of 520 teachers also reveals that 76 per cent of English teachers believe that their students find it difficult to think of classic authors as real people.
“Pupils just think of poets as dead white males,” said Bethan Marshall, senior lecturer in English education at King’s College London. “They think they’re completely irrelevant. Authors now seem more real than those who wrote hundreds of years ago.” [...]
Among the teachers surveyed, 82 per cent said students would be inspired by seeing authors’ original manuscripts. This was certainly true of Ms Wilson when she was at school: “For me, the first time I saw the manuscript of Jane Eyre – to see that, in Charlotte Brontë’s neat handwriting. And Jane Austen, it’s all scratched out and corrected. That was a surprise, because her prose is so precise.” (Adi Bloom)
Back to heroines, The Huffington Post defends the plucky ones.
I grew up reading books, novels especially, and mine is an old story, especially by now, when we've been talking about whether or not women can or should be counted among serious writers for several hundred years now. Each generation thinks that it has discovered the subject but really, all we do is replicate the arguments of the past. Check the work of Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Brontë, Virginia Woolf. Each in her own way decried the same things: Women's interests are not viewed as serious. Women find it hard to fight back because those who do will be castigated as complainers and scolds. Men control everything and so a woman who writes is helpless to stem the tide against her.
But even as they cataloged their demands, each writer, in her own way, also excelled at presenting the plucky heroine. Each excelled at the narrative of perseverance, exactly as if each one needed to say: "Take it on faith. This is what you're going to need." [...]
When I was 11, the woman who lived next door cleaned out her daughter's room--the daughter had moved away--and a box of books appeared on my desk. Most were advice manuals dispensing counsel about make-up and hair-styles, the provenance of the good girl, the girl who did as she was told. But tucked underneath were a couple of novels. These had heavy cardboard covers and thick yellowing pages. They smelled of age and promise. The first one I opened began with a line that told me this book was going to be different. First off, the narrator was a woman. Second, and even more important, was the way she saw the world, with herself at the center and the story her own.
That was how I met Jane Eyre. She was a revelation to my 11-year-old self--the self who had already been taught that good books were written by men about courageous guys and noble, thoughtful boys. Jane was not like any girl character a man had written. She thought for herself. She took terrifying action, often at great risk, and did things that were unthinkable.
Unimaginable. Almost unbelievable. And yet I believed she could do them. And although I would not have said so when I first read her story, she made me believe that I could do things too. (Randi Davenport)
The Yorkshire Post features the exhibition Artists of Faith at the Brontë Parsonage Museum.
The Brontë family’s strong links with the Methodist faith were founded in Patrick Brontë’s own religious grounding as a young priest – his career was nurtured by John Wesley’s friend Thomas Tighe and – and his wife Maria Branwell’s family were devout Methodists from Cornwall. After Maria’s death her sister Elizabeth came to Haworth to help raise the Brontë children and she had a powerful influence on the lives of her young nephew and nieces. [...]
“I think the reason the Parsonage works so well in that respect is because the Brontës were such interesting people,” [curator Nick Cass] says. “They were interested in social justice and early ideas of feminism and engaged with those issues particularly creatively. So I think to do anything either political or creative in that space is a legacy and a tribute to them and a really interesting way to provoke thought about how we deal with those issues today. What is also interesting about the Parsonage is that the Brontës were very interdisciplinary in their practice – they drew and painted as well as writing. ”
He feels that visitors coming to the museum are affected by the experience of being in the Brontës’ home and describes it as having for many people almost “a sense of pilgrimage.” Exploring the rooms in which the family lived and worked – and, in many cases, died – can have a profound effect, highlighting not only a sense of intense creativity but also mortality and loss. “People are looking for an absorbing experience not necessarily to spend a long time reading,” he says. “And some of the best artworks can express things that words can’t.” The Methodist Church Collection comprises 51 artworks altogether from which Cass selected 11 – they include outstanding work by Graham Sutherland, Mark Cazalet, Elizabeth Frink and Maggie Hambling – to display around the Parsonage. He says that he mostly went by intuition in making his selection.
“The works are not there to illustrate any particular point, so I tried to have a sense of how particular paintings might work in particular places,” he says. “Then I explored what that suggested to me and what broader connections there might be.” (Yvette Huddleston)
Still locally, Keighley News reviews the book Walking the Literary Landscape by Ian Hamilton and Diane Roberts.
Brontë fans can follow in the footsteps of their heroines thanks to a new walks book.
Walking The Literary Landscape takes people from Haworth on to the moors past the Brontë waterfalls.
Walkers visit Top Withens, the ruined farmhouse reputed to be the inspiration for Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, then back to Haworth via Stanbury.
The Brontë sisters are among famous writers featured in the glossy paperback, written by Ian Hamilton and Diane Roberts.
Each of the 20 walks takes in a location linked to the life or works of a well-known writer. They include poets like William Wordsworth and Ted Hughes and novelists like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, together with children’s writers Beatrix Potter and Lewis Carroll.
The authors tell how the Brontës are still inextricably linked to Haworth and describe the Parsonage Museum as “superb”.
They add: “Our walk follows in the footsteps of the sisters, who demonstrated in their writing a remarkable sympathy for nature in the raw and an ability to withstand a fair amount of hardship.”
The Globe and Mail reviews the novel American Innovations by Rivka Galchen.
As in Atmospheric Disturbances, Galchen’s acclaimed debut novel, there are communications with the dead, and the possibility of other, slightly off-kilter, universes where things like time travel are scientifically possible. Or are they? In my favourite story, The Region of Unlikeness, Galchen combines an unwieldy love triangle with the speculative, resulting in a kind of mash-up of Back to the Future and Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, although rather than Jeanne Moreau’s free-spirited Catherine, the woman here is a lonely and insecure graduate student in civil engineering. The happiest days of her life begin when she meets Ilan and Jacob by chance in a Moroccan coffee shop on Upper West Side. “They were discussing Wuthering Heights too loudly, having the kind of reference-laden conversation that unfortunately never fails to attract me,” revealing everything we need to know about her and the men. (Zsuzsi Gartner)
Another conversation on Wuthering Heights is mentioned in an article about Cuban writer Pablo Armando Fernández and his book Los niños se despiden on CubaDebate.
Lo conocí por los tempranos años 80, en casa de Ada Santamaría Cuadrado, en un cumpleaños que Ada le celebró a Pepe Rodríguez Feo con sus amigos. Pablo estaba acompañado de Maruja y a una pregunta nos habló, a mi hermano y a mí, de “Cumbres borrascosas”, la novela que más le gusta y también de las hermanas Bronte; nos recordó el famoso verso de Emily: “The soul to feel the flesh, the flesh to feel the chain”, que se quedó flotando para siempre en el aire.
Heathcliff, Catherine y Edgar, Hareton Earnshaw, la señora Dean, Hindley y su esposa Frances,  la granja de los Tordos. La historia de las dos familias que viven en la zona, los Linton y los Earnshaw. La amistad a escondidas y el amor apasionado, una historia de borrasca entre cumbres. (...)
Estallamos en una carcajada, hicimos la cola y continuamos hablando de Heathcliff, Hareton y del fantasma de Catherine. (F. Vladimir Pérez Casal) (Translation)
The Irish Times interviews writer Joseph O'Connor.
Which writers, living or dead, would you invite to your dream dinner party? If there is a Hell being prepared for me, it will be a dinner party. But I’d like to be in a bar, late at night in New York, with Colm Toibin, Patti Smith, Dickens, St John of the Cross, Toni Morrison, Keats and Emily Brontë, with her brother Branwell leading the singsong while arm-wrestling. (Martin Doyle)
Jess Mountifield reviews Jane Eyre after having watched the 2006 adaptation first. From the Brontë Parsonage Facebook page: a great grand daughter of Sir James Roberts's visits the museum all the way from Canada, the display for the 1940s weekend being prepared and finally the sad news of the death of Oscar the (local) cat. Corner Store Press posts Fritz Eichenberg's Jane Eyre illustrations. The Fiction Therapist asks Could Wuthering Heights’ Cathy have been mindful?

And finally, an alert from today's UK TV. BBC Two broadcasts Wuthering Heights 1939 (13.25 h).


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