Friday, January 12, 2018

We thought we had heard everything about the Lily Cole controversy. But The Federalist manages to make the whole thing even more absurd by missing the point in order to keep to its own agenda. What saddens (and maddens) us even more is that the person twisting the point to try to fit the square peg in the round hole is a woman. Read at your own risk:
It’s Sexist To Tell Men They Can’t Argue About Lily Cole Representing The Brontë Society
Modern feminists say women should be judged on merits, yet resort to easily-applied labels like 'sexism' and 'patriarchy' to refute even legitimate criticism from men. How can we call this progress?
The Bronte Society has chosen a supermodel to work with them on a film about the romantic hero of Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” for an upcoming celebration of the author, and one man’s decision to criticize their choice has feminists up in arms, crying sexist. Their fury raises the question: is it ever okay to criticize a woman in this political climate? [...]
Her movie credits include playing the party girl Lovey in “The Last Jedi.” None of her roles are critically acclaimed. She also directed two short documentary films, including one on volunteers who work with refugees on the Greek island of Samos. It’s fair to say that Cole is accomplished, but she is certainly no Brontë expert, and her directing experience is still pretty raw. [...]
But when Nick Holland, a long-time Brontë society member, author, and well known literary critic who specializes in the works of the Brontë sisters, announced he is leaving the society because of Cole’s appointment, feminists pounced. He explained in a blog post he disagrees with the choice because he feels it’s a result of nepotism more than talent, and because Cole is not a writer. He also describes a one-time encounter with Cole’s acting in a theater.
It’s apparent to me Holland wrote his blog out of passion and frustration, but he didn’t come off as a misogynist. However, feminists and progressives in the U.K. are deeply offended. Holland was widely criticized. Some people argue that Cole is well qualified to be the chief artist for the Brontë society because she has a major in art history from Cambridge and she once led a campaign to save a book store. But most comments focused on criticizing Holland. [...]
Holland may be old fashioned or a literature purist. But throughout his blog, he didn’t say anything nor make any judgment about Ms. Cole’s mind, her looks or her gender, aside from mentioning she’s a supermodel. Let’s not forget Holland has devoted his professional career to studying female writers and their works.
All he did in his blog was to question Cole’s qualifications, or rather lack of qualifications, for the particular assignment she was asked to do. Yes, Cole is a bright and accomplished young woman. But she is neither a known Brontë scholar nor a critically claimed film director. Is she the right choice as the chief artist to lead the Brontë society’s commemorating events? Does she have what it takes to produce a memorable film on Heathcliff?
Had she been a man, these would obviously be legitimate questions. Yet, in this post-Weinstein, #metoo world we live in, if a man dares to ask such questions about a woman, he will immediately be chastised as a sexist and misogynist. Are modern-day women really this fragile that we can’t possibly survive any criticism from men and we have to hide behind our gender?
Women have been fighting for equality for centuries and have made tremendous progress along the way. However, it seems modern feminists have gotten lost along their journey. They say women should be judged on their merits and yet, they deny women’s agency and encourage women to embrace victim hood. Labels like “sexism” or “patriarchy” have become the easiest way to shut down even constructive criticism from a man. How can we call this progress?
More than 100 years ago, the Brontë sisters contributed to world literature with strong heroines. They didn’t do so by creating wimpy male characters. From Jane Eyre to Catherine Earnshaw, they fell in love with their equally strong-headed male characters and these ladies presented themselves as equal and dignified partners in these relationships, none shrank from any challenges their male counterpart put forward. I imagine none of these heroines and their creators would consider silencing a man from speaking his mind as a sign of gender equality and not all criticism from a man to a woman are about sexual control.
Brontë wrote, “It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn.” She was talking about love, but her words also speak to a fearless attitude that can apply in other contexts. As we commemorate Emily Brontë’s bicentennial birthday this year, I’d like to see more women live like honeysuckles who are not afraid to embrace the thorn. (Helen Raleigh)
So, to sum up Ms Raleigh's rant: it's okay to criticise a woman with some qualifications which will be brushed aside for what she hasn't done yet (in this case, Lily Cole's film for the Brontë Society) but it's not okay to criticise a man with some qualifications which will be made to seem more important than they really are for what he has actually written for the public to read (and thus comment on). Oh, and forget about those Brontë heroines, what the Brontës really did care about was their heroes' freedom of speech. Brilliant.

And now the Daily Mail has embarked on a free-for-all, let's-disparage-Lily-Cole campaign (which according to the above-mentioned article is an okay thing to do, remember). #StopFundingHate comes to mind now more than ever. This is seriously getting out of hand now.

Anyway, let's move on to real, actually interesting things now. 2018 also marks the bicentenary of the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, as The Seattle Times reminds us:
The great horror filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, in an introduction to the annotated version, draws a comparison between Mary Shelley and the Brontë sisters (one of whom, Emily, was born 200 years ago this year). “I would love to travel back to contemplate life with these remarkable women,” he writes, “to hear them speak, to walk by their side on cold beaches or moors and under impossibly steely skies.” (Moira Macdonald)
We would love that too.

Barnes & Noble Teen blog has compiled a list of the most anticipated books for teens in 2018, including
My Plain Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows (June 26)
In 2016 I laughed my head off at the Lady Janies’ My Lady Jane, a quirky faux-history about Miss Lady Jane Grey, a young woman whose life and claim to power were both short-lived: she held the British throne for a total of nine days before her execution by the beheading-happy Queen Mary. The novel included patriarchy smashing, flirtation-technique making, and a man who spent half his days as a horse—so needless to say I was ecstatic when I heard this trio was bequeathing us another funny masterpiece. My Plain Jane follows not-so-little orphan Jane Eyre through her adventures at Thornfield Hall and, as usual, our Lady Janies don’t have just any old retelling in store for us. No, this take on the classic boasts of ghosts and Jane Eyre author Charlotte Brontë as a main character, and, if it’s anything like its predecessor, I know the storytelling will be wonderfully wacky and as charming. This book will be anything but Plain, and I can’t wait to read it in 2018.
–Maddie M.
Aragón Digital (Spain) interviews an actress, writer, Itziar Miranda, who will be publishing a book on Emily Brontë in the spring as part of a series of children's books about women.
P.- ¿Qué mujeres históricas aparecen en tus cuentos?
R.- De momento, está Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Juana “la Loca”, Coco Chanel, Billie Holiday, Amelia Earhart, Indira Gandhi, Jane Goodall y Cleopatra. Y ahora los siguientes que sacamos en primavera son Emily Brontë y Hedy Lamarr. (Adrián Luis Rúa) (Translation)
And at long last, Argentinian writer Laura Ramos will see her Brontë family biography in print this year too, as reported by Télam (whose writer will hopefully read in order to find out that the Brontës lived in the 19th century and not the 20th).
En el bicentenario del nacimiento de Emily Brontë, saldrá por Taurus una biografía de Laura Ramos sobre la familia literaria inglesa del siglo XX [SIC] (Milena Heinrich) (Translation)
This columnist from Daily Maverick (South Africa) writes about reading Outsiders. Five Women Writers Who Changed the World by Lyndall Gordon.
This year fate threw me a copy of Lyndall Gordon’s Outsiders, Five Women Writers Who Changed the World. It’s a beautiful book, evocatively bringing to life one female line in literature (of course there are many others), running between Mary Shelly, Emily Brontë, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner and Virginia Woolf. Society owes a great deal to the art of literary biography and Lyndall Gordon’s contribution in her latest book is to show that below the male dominated canons of literature there has always been a female underbelly; suppressed but more sensitive, often more questioning and penetrating of our societies. [...]
Back to reading. There are approximately 100 years between the writings of Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf. I’m an internationalist and a lover of many nation’s literatures, including our own. Yet Outsiders drew me once more back to an eclectic line of English writers (novelist, poets, playwrights and essayists), whose works were published between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth century. This group encompasses Tom Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, Coleridge, Keats, Mary and Percy Shelly, Wordsworth, Emily, Anne and Charlotte Brontë.
In each of these writers the tragedy in their tales often parallels their own lives’ tragedy – for theirs was a time of disease, persecution, rigid silencing – a time long before hygiene and the notion of fundamental human rights had started to lengthen lives. [...]
If, as Anne Brontë is reputed to have said, our poets ought to be our legislators, theirs was a Parliament par excellence. (Mark Heywood)
Not to downplay our Anne, but we actually think that it was Shelley who said something like that.

Birth. Movies. Death reviews the new film Phantom Thread and is reminded of Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca.
Both tales echo sentiments of old gothic romance novels, fitting in nicely amongst Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre or Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Just like the hidden messages or little locks of hair Reynolds stitches into the canvas of his coats, both Phantom Thread and Rebecca are filled to the brim with dark twists and spilling over with heinous secrets. Just as the timeless tales of love and loss in their literary predecessors, like the sickly secret first wife hidden in the attic who won’t stop lighting fires in the night, or the jilted dreamer cursed with a broken heart at the altar, so, too, do Hitchock and Anderson’s pictures appear in the guise of a comely romance and slowly lose their dreamy nature to reveal reality waiting just underneath the surface. (Kalyn Corrigan)
While Slate reviews the film The Commuter:
It’s strewn with literary references—if you’ve ever longed for a movie in which Jonathan Banks corrects Liam Neeson on which Brontë sister wrote Wuthering Heights, you’re in luck—but they’re like the hardcover books interior designers buy in bulk to make moneyed homeowners look literate, thrown about without reason or care. (Sam Adams)
And finally, time to scout around for some coins as Fine Books & Collections reports that  Branwell’s own copy of The Odyssey (Pope’s translation, c. 1840) is going under the hammer at Forum Auctions on January 25th.
Brontë (Patrick Branwell).- Homer. The Odyssey, Branwell Brontë's copy with ink inscription "To P.B.B. from his dear friend J.B.L. to head of title, engraved frontispiece and title, ink notations and sketches to front endpapers, and verso of final f. in a contemporary hand, engraved illustration loosely inserted, upper hinge tender, original pictorial cloth, gilt, spine rubbed and faded, spine ends and corners bumped, 12mo, [c.1840].
⁂ An interesting association copy with an original pen and black ink portrait study to front pastedown, and a further small portrait sketch to rear pastedown, possibly by an artist in the Circle of Branwell Brontë with the first portrait bearing some physiognomic similarities to Branwell's portrait of his friend James Fletcher held in the Brontë Parsonage Museum,
J.B.L. is likely Joseph Bentley Leyland (1811-51), sculptor and friend of Branwell.
It is expected to fetch £600 - 800.


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