Thursday, December 19, 2019

On the anniversary of her death, Lettera Donna (Italy) has an article on Emily Brontë explaining why she was a feminist.
Con Cime tempestose (titolo originale Wuthering Heights), Emily Brontë sfidò la bigotta Gran Bretagna vittoriana: il sentimento che unisce Catherine ed Heathcliff è totalizzante, misterioso, pervasivo. Non si tratta di un amore canonico e, a tratti, fa pure un po’ paura. Non solo. L’autrice scrisse infatti l’impensabile, disseminando qua e là indizi che facevano (e fanno ancora pensare) a un Heathcliff di colore: il tono scuro della sua pelle è infatti menzionato più volte, soprattutto quando il personaggio viene denigrato nel corso del romanzo. Se oggi è considerato un classico, all’epoca Cime tempestose fu bollato come brutale e immorale, come un’opera da non leggere. E infatti lo fecero in pochi, almeno all’inizio. Nel corso dei decenni e dei secoli, in tanti hanno sostenuto che no, una donna non poteva aver realmente scritto quella roba là. E invece Emily Brontë, la ragazza della brughiera, lo aveva fatto davvero. (Translation)
Keighley News is getting ready for Anne Brontë's bicentenary.
Vulgar, strident, pious - who is the real Anne Bronte?
The least-known Brontë sister will step into the limelight next month – and a new book is being published to mark the occasion.
Anne Brontë Reimagined will be released as literature fans across the world begin celebrating the 200th anniversary of the writer's birth.
Anne is best known as a writer of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but her achievements are often overshadowed by those of elder sisters Charlotte and Emily, writers of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights respectively.
Over the past four years Brontë fans have already celebrated the bicentenaries of Anne's siblings, and Salford-based publisher Saraband has published new books about both of them.
Now it is the turn of Anne Brontë, with Adelle Hay turning a 21st-century eye on the youngest Brontë and declaring her the most radical of the famous siblings.
Saraband's previous books about Charlotte and Emily were written by Sophie Franklin and Claire O'Callaghan, both young academics on the 'modernising' side of Brontë Society debates. Both writers took a fresh look at the sisters' lives and works, highlighting their relevance today.
A Saraband spokesman said Anne, sidelined for so long, now takes centre stage, allowing critics to see just how far-sighted her thinking was, and how she wrote the first feminist novel.
Sophie Franklin has described Anne Brontë Reimagined as sensitive, thoughtful and enriching, while Claire O'Callaghan said it was an important contribution from to studies, showing where's books remain relevant to contemporary culture.
A Saraband spokesman said: "Adelle Hay’s 21st-century take on Anne Brontë explores why the pioneering, outspoken and remarkably talented author has been endlessly sidelined. She aims to paint Anne’s work in a completely new light.
"Viewed by turns as coarse, vulgar, strident, pious, reserved and even, inexplicably, just plain boring, who was the real Anne and why has she been so overlooked?
"Much like her sisters, Anne wasn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, but she was prepared to take that one step further. Her views were so far ahead of her time that even Charlotte tried to edit them out of history.
"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne’s second and most famous novel, was groundbreaking in its subject matter: marital abuse; gender equality; education for girls; alcohol abuse and its effect on family life; and married women’s rights.
"But it also broached the completely suppressed subject of what we now call coercive control."
Adelle Hay believes it is impressive that Anne’s characters still speak to readers today in voices they recognise, about painfully-relevant subjects.
Hay said: "From Agnes Grey’s heartbreaking account of loneliness to Helen Graham’s passion for gender equality in upbringing and education, a 21st-century reader will have no difficulty finding something to relate to in Anne’s works.” (David Knights)
In our opinion, sensationalism is a bad way of selling books, so let us point out that Anne Brontë herself was never once described as 'vulgar' or 'coarse'. What was deemed 'coarse' and 'vulgar' by Victorian critics who never even knew whether the author was a man or a woman was her ground-breaking novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Anne's social conscience was such that she risked those attributes in an effort to better the lives of countless Victorian women. So we find it somewhat disrespectful to her memory to play with that. She should be vindicated, not sensationalised. The article/press release would have been lovely if it hadn't been for that bit.

Crime Fiction Lover reviews Bella Ellis's The Vanished Bride.
Would you believe the premise that three spinster sisters living in a Victorian parsonage would have the experience and nous to solve a crime? And really, would you believe that the work of such seemingly innocent and almost unworldly women could have a place at the high table of the literary world for 170 years? You would have to suspend your disbelief if the latter was not true of the Brontë siblings.
In The Vanished Bride, the fictionalised Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë become ‘lady detectors’ when they set off across the windswept moors from Haworth in West Yorkshire in pursuit of the truth in 1845. A young bride, Elizabeth Chester, has gone missing from her home leaving no trace save a large pool of blood, signs of a violent struggle and a slew of dark rumours about her marriage. [...]
There’s plenty of allusion to the sisters’ books and their real life characters and experiences, with a gothic and theatrical atmosphere and a tale rollicking with romance, ghosts, peril, madness and feminist commentary of the Victorian kind. Death is a frequent visitor, as it was in the Brontë’s own lives. Emily and Anne would be dead by 1848 and 1849, so Bella Ellis will need to get her skates on for the sequels.
You don’t need to be a Brontë fan or be familiar with their lives or novels to enjoy this, although you would have more fun recognising the fictional inspirations for Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. There are a few stumbles in the backstory in the short opening chapters, but Ellis gathers pace and weaves the literary allusions into a compelling mystery with good storytelling at its heart – thankfully without the full on melodrama of the Heights. I feel the sisters would have approved, although Charlotte fiercely guarded the reputation of the Brontë brand.
This is the first in the Brontë sisters mystery series, written by author Rowan Coleman using the pseudonym inspired by Emily Brontë’s pen name Ellis Bell. See what she did there? (Catherine Turnbull)
Seven Days features the two works published by cartoonist Glynnis Fawkes this year.
In a letter in 1837, poet laureate of England Robert Southey declared, "Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure she will have for it, even as an accomplishment & a recreation."
The recipient of that letter was 20-year-old Charlotte Brontë, a member of the now-famous literary family and future author of Jane Eyre. She'd written Southey seeking feedback on her poetry. She reads his crushing reply in the opening pages of Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre, a graphic novel by Burlington cartoonist Glynnis Fawkes.
The words may be Southey's, but Fawkes' accompanying illustrations make the scene. The reader watches Charlotte's penciled expression grow increasingly miffed as she reads his words, until the letter concludes and Brontë is left fuming by candlelight.
This is a theme of Brontë's early years, as Fawkes depicts them: a mismatch of ambition and circumstance. The author's childhood was marked by tragedy, with the deaths of her mother and two of her five siblings. As a young adult, she helped support her family as a teacher and governess, jobs that made her miserable. All the while, Brontë occupied the worlds of her own imagination with gusto, dreaming of making a living as a writer.
To convey that inner life, Fawkes fills her panels with excerpts from Brontë's correspondence, such as an 1836 passage in which the author speaks of "the dreams that absorb me, and the fiery imagination that at times eats me up ... I keep trying to do right, repressing wrong thoughts — but still every instant I find myself going astray ... I go on confidently seeking my own pleasure — pursuing the gratification of my own desires." (Margaret Grayson)
Paste Magazine recommends '12 Festive Audiobooks to Listen to This Holiday Season'.
A Vintage Christmas: A Collection of Classic Stories and Poems by Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain and more
Narrated by: Laura Kirman, Gordon Griffin, Mike Grady, Eve Karpf, Barry Scott, Nan Gurley, Henry O. Arnold, Brook Bryant, Gabe Wicks
Run time: 5 hours and 13 minutes
Reading and listening to classic stories around a fire (or at least its contemporary equivalent) is a holiday tradition for many families—one that the lovely audio collection, A Vintage Christmas, hopes to join. It features short stories from Louisa May Alcott, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, L. M. Montgomery and Selma Lagerlof as well as poems from John Milton, Christina Rossetti, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anne Brontë, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Read by an equally stalwart group of narrators, this charming collection will give gatherings of family and friends the opportunity to settle into various cozy corners to all be listeners. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your next favorite Christmas story tradition right here. (Alexis Gunderson)
Los Angeles Review of Books discusses the controversial opinion of American writer and critic Michael Clune in a review of the book What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading by Leah Price.
Consider, in contrast, the proposal made by Michael Clune this August — first in Critical Inquiry, then in The Chronicle of Higher Education — that the value of a humanities professor lies in their judgment. Academics adjudicate, he argued, on whether we should spend our time reading Henry James or watching The Apprentice, and they teach us the skills to access and relish the superiority of the former. By his account, when professors remain content-neutral, they are not widening the canon; they are narrowing it by allowing the market to swoop in and feed us an all-Netflix diet. “If you tell me my preference for young adult fiction or reality TV shows is neither better nor worse than a preference for Emily Brontë or Ralph Ellison,” Clune wrote, “you are robbing me of the opportunity to enrich my life.”
Those words didn’t quite spawn an outrage, but they were expectedly controversial. The Chronicle soon published a counterbid chastising Clune for his aesthetic conservatism and his unwillingness to engage in more reflexive thinking. The writers proposed, instead, that the English professor should pursue a second-order interrogation, asking their classroom why we tend to attribute value to Brontë or Ellison. Doing so, they argued, opens a space for “aesthetic empathy”: mutual growth between student and teacher, in which the former might just show the latter there’s something to be learned from reality TV. Clune’s counter to the counter? He accused his opponents of bootstrapping the rights of a professor — from making literary judgment to “moral and metacognitive judgment.”
The coronet of the literary critic can shine garishly in these debates. Antes and emotions rise, as each side bellows that its brand of aesthetic education brings the proper form of public good. In the wake of Outrages, the scrupulous historicism of What We Talk About tempers those disputes by suggesting another hat. When wearing it, we might discuss how James negotiated contracts with his transatlantic publishers, or note that The Ambassadors’s first American edition swapped Chapters 28 and 29. We could call myth on Clune’s binary between reality TV and Emily Brontë by citing a review — “In spite of the disgusting coarseness of much of the dialogue, and the improbabilities of much of the plot, we are spellbound” — and asking whether it refers to Wuthering Heights or The Bachelor. Price never makes such an explicit bid, but her headgear raises a paddle. It reminds us that when a sterling English professor talks about books, she may offer something different from judgment: truth. (Colton Valentine)
New Statesman has Laurie Lee biographer Valerie Grove review his Down in the Valley: A Writer’s Landscape.
This little book, 100 pages long if you include the editor’s afterword, is not a newly exhumed piece of reminiscence by Laurie Lee. It is a transcript of recordings the documentary-maker David Parker made for an affectionate televised 80th birthday tribute to Lee in 1994.
Parker filmed him, white-haired and well-upholstered, at several locations in his childhood village of Slad. The film was reshown on Lee’s death, almost three years later. It provided a visual record of Lee’s “exotically lush” corner of Gloucestershire. The tapes, lost for 20 years, were rediscovered in 2017:  hence this book. [...]
As Dorset became to Thomas Hardy, and Haworth to the Brontës, his valley became synonymous with him. Its most famous son led the campaign to deter predatory developers. He bought the local cricket field, and preserved the woods of his boyhood. The county rightly designates this area “Laurie Lee country”, with signposts and walks.
The Telegraph has now published its own obituary of playwright William Luce. Kaylia Hertel posts about Wuthering Heights. The Sisters' Room has selected three of Emily's 'most beautiful poems'.

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