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Applications for admission to a casual ward (1874), Luke Fildes

Where a great proportion of the people are suffered to languish in helpless misery, that country must be ill policed, and wretchedly governed: a decent provision for the poor, is the true test of civilization — Samuel Johnson

Dear friends and readers,

My first blog report for this year’s ASCES covered what I could of Friday sessions and lectures of the ASECS Conference, this concludes with Saturday morning. As with this first where for the sake of more representative sweep, I record titles of sessions and a few of the papers on Thursday that I would have like to have gone to on Thursday, so here I will cite similarly from the two Saturday afternoon sessions.

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Goya’s depiction of two aging beggars eating (one of his nightmarish “black” paintings)

I began with “Thieves, Beggars and Vagrants: Rethinking 18th century Poverty” (8-9:00 am), chaired by Tracey Hutchings-Goetz. Catherine Keohane’s “Calamities Real or Fictitious: The Poor and the Act of Supplication” discussed how hostile attitudes towards the poor forced poor people to represent themselves through stereotypes which would fend off sceptical and hostile critical attitudes towards them. Common myths then and now are that the poor and disabled are faking and imagine males; the prosperous expected “deserving” beggars suffering under “true calamity” to be modest and mostly silent, self-controlled. They have to meet a standard of lowness, look lame, blind, bruised. The poor and disabled are forced to fake or perform what is not so in many situations. They cannot speak up freely for themselves about their needs and actual situation. In fact most beggars were women and children. Many today would like help from a lower middle class standpoint: say go to a school but if they ask for this kind of thing then they are seen as asking for inappropriate help. They must ask just for food say or rent. Similarly in the 18th century what a beggar could ask for was severely limited.

Nicole Wright analyzed two texts supposedly written to convey advice to person impoverished or who has experienced disastrous legal injustice. Giles Jacob’s Law Guide purports to teach the average person how to navigate the legal and criminal justice system on the assumption that auto-didacticism will do what’s needed; he omits the reality of power relationships, how time, intricate complications, large sums of money needed prevent anyone from using such a guide seriously. In contrast, Charlotte Smith’s advice in her novel Marchmont accurately emphasizes the legal helplessness of the average person, showing that only a thorough re-structuring could begin to end the depradations; she makes concrete the realities of the difficulties litigants faced: these include slow pace, exorbitant fees, how terms worked, how counselors discouraged their clients, mystified the legal process. Jacobs’s treatise has a subtle pervasive bias against its supposed readership; Smith’s novel offers a radical sympathetic critique. Both writers had far more motives than that of helping others actuating their texts. Smith does admit to these, Jacobs does not.

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Hogarth contextualizes this melodramatic “prison scene” as the result of a “rake’s progress.” The conversation of the session on poverty and disability enables us to see Hogarth’s picture in a different light. It’s presented as a moral story about a type of experience or individual. What it does is give exaggerated and false notions of what life is like in a prison, erases its reality (for example, you had to bribe the wardens and guards to get food and physical comforts). It does not come near talking about the injustices of the criminal and prison systems of the era.

As respondent, Rachel Seiler-Smith remarks gave us a third and (more overtly) modern context. In the 21st century we see a similar refusal to look at the larger system which causes poverty, a desire to police and pre-script poverty and disability as necessarily totally desperate before any help will be offered. Thus effective help to enable someone or a group of people to lift themselves into independence is precluded. Jacob’s is a kind of conduct book, while Smith makes visible the legal morass from which few can extricate themselves. She suggested that impoverished people today are denied platforms while real social and physical violence (what can happen to someone on the street) are inflicted on the excluded. People prefer fantasies of class mobility. The discussion afterward included the question of how genre affects the presentation of poverty, the contradictory emphasis on visible suffering and maladies when what is compelling the continued reality of distress is psychological. We mentioned how anger is not allowed to the poor, the disabled, those who have experienced violence (I mentioned raped women in rape shelters or police stations where self-controlled conventional middle class behavior is demanded). Fielding was brought up as someone who discussed extreme poverty as a cause of violence and misery but his solutions were harsh punishments for the poor. We agreed the topic is too rarely discussed at conferences.

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An imagined scene of a literary party at Sir Joshua Reynolds (1851 engraving by D. George Thompson after James Doyle, an antiquarian and illustrator (1822-92)

My second session of the day was Anthony Lee’s session on Samuel Johnson, social and intertextual networks (9:45-11:15 am). As usual (he had them regularly) the session had rich complicated papers which included the treat of close readings of texts. I offer only a gist of each. Andrew Black’s “John Wesley’s Share” began with content creation on the Internet that link the reader back to original sources as an modern example of how John Wesley justifiably borrowed from Johnson in an unusual moment of agreement with Johnson on the empirical nature of the new American culture. Anti-methodist literature excoriated Wesley for plagiarism. Johnson himself understood that limited control over your texts was fruitful for thought. Mr Black joked that Wesley would today have a big twitter following. Christopher Catanese’s title “The Gale of Favour” alluded to catching popular themes as a source of power. He focused on later 18th century changing philosophies and new forms of history to contextualize Warton’s canonizing History of English Poetry. Warton finds compensatory pleasure in how Spenser departs from conventional English. Unlike Jeffreys in the later Edinburgh Review, and like Johnson, Warton does not seek to control and discipline a reader’s pleasure. He quoted Hazlitt and suggested that readers were coming to have a changing role in the development of texts (as they do on the Internet today). Philip Smallwood entertained us with a vivid account of John Dennis’s close critical readings of Pope and Shakespeare as seen by himself and Johnson. Johnson saw Addison as too distant, too obedient to critical commonplaces while Dennis’s rampages were made up of genuine tight engagement with texts. If Johnson was vocal against Dennis (many ridiculed Dennis showing they at least remembered aspects of his writing), Johnson took Dennis seriously. Prof Smallwood’s examples from Dennis included how Dennis treated Blackmore insolence and contempt, and enraged Pope. Dennis may have attacked their “abuses” of language, but he was also an enthusiast for Milton and Shakespeare and recognized the beauty and insights of Pope’s Essay on Criticism.

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Christopher Vilmar’s topic was Johnson’s semi-fictionalized reports on parliament, the famous “Debates in the Senate of Magna Lilliputia.” While Mr Vilmar conceded the value and usefulness of most scholarly accounts of these texts which demonstrate the accuracy of Johnson’s reports, he maintained the procedure is still a form of misreading. His paper went over thoroughly ironical passages with overt allusions to Swift to show how they connect back to the Scriblerian projects and Gulliver’s accounts of Lilliput,and suggest how much we have to gain from reading them as satirical texts. These semi-fictionalized debates are lavish set pieces hard to interpret, ambiguous, but also creative arrangements that make statements about Walpole in the way Swift’s novel commented on say colonialism. Mr Vilmar said that Johnson hoped readers would notice what he was doing.

The discussion afterward included critical objections, qualifications, and praise. Someone was delighted to find methodism and Johnson brought together, but reminded everyone that methodists were not dissenters. They stayed inside the Anglican church, were loyal to the king. It was pointed out that both Johnson and Dennis were readers alert to the denseness of texts, paying attention to detail and nuance; Prof Smallwood said Dennis is hard reading and often wrong-headed, but “there is something there, and Dennis was far more congential to Johnson than Addison. Deirdre Lynch’s new book about loving literature was brought up in connection with Warton.

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Henry Tresham, The Ascent of Vesuvius (1785-90)

The Clifford lecture (11:30 am to 12:30 pm) was given by John Brewer: “Fire and Ice: Travel and the Natural Sublime” in the Age of Enlightenment. Prof Brewer took us through the great travel books of the later 18th century (accompanied by many images from paintings, watercolors, engravings) to reveal the connections among scientific projects (planetary, geographic, geological), the aesthetic categories of sublime and picturesque:

Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples c.1776-80 Joseph Wright of Derby 1734-1797 Purchased with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, Friends of the Tate Gallery, and Mr John Ritblat 1990 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T05846
Vesuvius in Eruption, with a View over the Islands in the Bay of Naples (c.1776-80) Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-1797)

He also talked of the literature about personal transformative experiences b someone alone or in a group of travelers together, which readers were invited to join in on vicariously through reading and looking at pictures. Prof Brewer was concerned to show how the figure of the heroic genius, the savant, is so often featured in these accounts; we also frequently see and read of groups of people in heroic solidarity in dangerous places and among different disciplines (Senestrier, Horace Gregory de Saussure, William Hamilton, Hester Thrale Piozzi, Humphry Davy, Adam Smith). We see and read of them braving frightening experiences. A social world is being made visible and presented as something to be proud of belonging to. There is also a commitment among these people and groups to putting their information gathered to work in a pre-existent or newly invented system of understanding. So order is reasserted over experience, one which comes from prior assumptions in the writers and their readers about the nature of experience. The literature also includes accounts of indigenous people, often fleeing their homes (from crises, like earthquakes). When the person or people depicted were shown to exercise fortitude, resolution, they would be respected, and offered as cynosures to follow. Of course this implies those who don’t react this way are somehow wanting (and reinforces colonialist attitudes). OTOH, such books slowly enable real fieldwork begins to go on (for real in botany), and a slow accumulation of knowledge because mapping occurs, forms of transportation are set up, all this put into sets of books, which others can read and use. Prof Brewer said much else, but I couldn’t catch it all by any means and what from what I got down I thought this line of argument might be of most interest to a reader of this blog.

At this point it was lunchtime and I headed for the Women’s Caucus Luncheon. The room was crowded and enthusiasm seemed high. The Women’s caucus has now built a second website for all members to make contact, find out about the program, whatever is needed. I enjoyed myself talking to people, but couldn’t stay. I had a five hour plus trip ahead of me.

Had I been able to stay for the whole of the luncheon and the afternoon, I would have gone (at 2-3:30 pm): “On Foot: Walking in the Eighteenth Century, chaired by Alison O’Bryne. Unexpectedly (perhaps naively) I was surprised to see two papers on Elizabeth Bennet’s walk through the mud, another on “mobility” in Emma (what mobility?!),

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Germaine Greer as Elizabeth, exhilarated by her walk in the midst of domestic battles, and something to be said for a comfortable fireside and home (1940)

One paper that sounded intriguing was a comparison of the wildness in Burney’s The Wanderer to Scott’s in Heart of Mid-lothian (I find it illuminating when you take other novels of the regency, especially by women and subjective in thrust and cmpare them to Scott’s). I was also drawn to the many papers under the aegis of “Historical Poetics in the Long Eighteenth Century, chaired by Anna Foy. Eight people were to speak on specific poets (including Anna Seward), or genres, the effect of nationalism on Scots and Welsh poetry, translation. One seemed to be about, How poetry and realistic historical fiction emerge from a post-colonialist and personal perspective?

I’ll here add a foremother poet I’ve not seen talked about individually, only in anthologies of poetry by women, which reading about the session brought to mind.

Question, on the Art of Writing

Tell me what genius did the art invent,
The lively image of a voice to paint?
Who first the secret how to colour found,
And to give shape to reason, wisely found?
With bodies how to cloathe ideas taught,
And how to draw the pictures of a thought?
Who taught the hand to speak, the eye to hear,
A silent language roving far and near?
Whose softest notes out-strip loud thunder’s sound,
And spread their accents thro’ the world’s vast round?
Yet with kind secrecy securely roll,
Whispers of absent friends from pole to pole.
A speech heard by the deaf, spoke by the dumb,
Whose echo reaches far in time to come;
Which dead men speak as well as those that live:
Tell me what genius did this art contrive?
— Catherine Jemmat (f. 1750-66)

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Recent facsimile (clicking below will lead you to a downloadable copy of her memoir)

A brief life for the curious: Catherine Jemmat was daughter to Admiral John Yeo of Plymouth by his first wife (not named). Her mother died when she was 5 and herfather married a woman who was mean to her (the father was often at sea). She was sent to a boarding school and married a silk mercer named Jemmat by whom she had a daughter. The escape was worse than the original sentence. He was abusive (violent, often drunk) and went bankrupt. So Catherine was (according to her memoir) “thrown upon the wide world for support.” We may imagine what this means, but she did survive and wrote a 3 volume book of Memoirs (1st ed, 1762) She became dependent on aristocratic patrons who had known her father. She also published _Miscellanies in Prose and Verse_ (1766) which includes an essay called “In Vindication of the Female Sex” where she protests against the scapegoating meted out to women who may be said to have sexual relationships with anyone outside marriage (no matter when or how this is written or talked about). Lonsdale says there are “mysteries” surrounding her. The poem comes from Joyce Fullard’s British Women Poets,1660-1800: Anthology.

The last session was at 3:45-5:15 pm. Although I had gone to a good panel on the Marriage Act once before, I would have attended “The Literary Impact of Hardwicke’s Marriage Act” (chaired by Jaclyn Geller) as it seems to be such an important piece of legislation. There was a paper on John Shebbeare’s The Marriage Act and (as a type) a kind of novel written “for the better preventing of clandestine marriage. finally I was drawn to “Lost and Found in the 18th century” (I used to get lost regularly, pre-Garmin life), chaired by Stephanie Koscak. These panels included papers on the profound desolation or fear engendered when a person loses consciousness, when they are a runaway slave or convict; guilt felt by the young women mixing and matching with young men at an understandable loss how to conduct a light courtship. I would also have liked to go to “Illustration, Visual Interpretation and the 18th Century Book Market (chaired by Kwinten Van De Walle), with papers on botany, poetry illustrations, the luxury book trade.

But I had better stop here with an image from another area of the visual arts, a design for landscape architecture.

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Design for a cascade at Chatsworth (c 1735-40), associated with the work of William Kent

I arrived home near 7. My two pussycats were glad to see me. They had been alone for many hours.

Ellen

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Photograph of Grasmere Lakes, Cumberland today — where Smith’s Ethelinde begins

Dear friends and readers,

Good news for Smith’s Ethelinde, or The Recluse of the Lake (first published 1789) and me. This year at Chawton House Library is the year of the two Charlottes. There will be two conferences for women writers: in May a Bicentennial for Charlotte Bronte’s life and work (13-14 May 2016); and in October Placing Charlotte Smith: Canon, Genre, History, Nation, Globe (14-15 October 2016). I am just so delighted to be able to say (in one breath) that my proposal for a paper on Charlotte Smith to be given at said conference has been accepted, and the publisher of Valancourt Press tells me my edition of Smith’s Ethelinde should be published by later summer, early fall, just in time.

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Charlotte Smith (c. 1793-94) by George Romney

Since beginning this Austen Reveries, I’ve written so many blogs and parts of blogs on Smith and her work, quoted so many of her poems. Smith is a long-time deeply beloved poet and novelist for me. When I finished my dissertation on Richardson’s Clarissa and Grandison, the two poets I began to research at the Library Congress equally were Anne Kingsmill Finch, Countess of Winchilsea (as she was known then) and Charlotte Turner Smith. My first research shelf at the LofB showed how I was torn between my love for Smith’s books and desire to read them and research into Anne Ward Radcliffe whose books were available but criticism of whom was hard to find (another long-time love, in Radcliffe’s case since I was about 17-18). In 1980 I had a copy of Smith’s Young Philosopher on it — at the time the only way you could read most of Smith’s novels was in a rare book room or on microfilm or microfiche. I also had reprints of dissertations on Radcliffe. I spent long hours on Saturdays and Sundays studying Smith’s poetry, reading through her novels, and learning (as I thought) from psychoanalytical analyses of Radcliffe’s Udolpho (I still have not rejected them). How the situation has changed. For Smith there was hardly any criticism or scholarship (the big serious work was by Florence Hilbish). Now the articles pour out and books steadily increase from post-colonial to close reading perspectives. Now I’ve done a historical study of Radcliffe’s political travel book, A Journey Made in the Summer 1794 (“The Nightmare History … “).

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Furness Abbey, Cumbria, which Radcliffe researched, explored with her husband and writes of

At this point (more than 30 years later) only two of Smith’s major novels have not been published in the last quarter century in affordable editions: Ethelinde and Marchmont. After August, there will be only one.

Here’s the proposal:

Ethelinde as a Postcolonial novel: the money motive, the sex instinct, the landscapes, and a new edition

– “as woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman, my country is the whole world.” – Woolf, Three Guineas

Known for its Scottish and Grasmere landscapes, Smith’s long novel ranges across England into France, Germany, to ocean border places, to the Carribean and allusively into India. In this second and seriously aspirational, innovative, and absorbing book, Smith depicts an inescapable patronage, capitalist, and debt-prison system; war through the horrors of battle and parliamentary careers; the use of marriage for gain, based on punitive repression, from the viewpoint of a male with idealistic adulterous longings. Long inset histories tell of women who find survival and a decent life by living with a man outside marriage; one of these is the mother of the recluse of the book, herself the mother of one of the book’s heroes. It has strong picturesque and realistic landscape beauty. Yet repeatedly this has been the novel writers choose not to deal with in depth. The reason is not far to seek: there has been no individual affordable text since 1790. This spring Valancourt Press will remedy this situation by publishing a newly prepared text, introduction, and annotations by me.

I propose a paper which I hope will also help reclaim a novel whose rarity until recently has made countering unfavorable older appraisals difficult. I will place Ethelinde among a tradition of women’s writing from a post-colonial perspective. I will argue the social construction of Smith’s gendered experience of life, which led to a corrosion of her emotional life that she was never given circumstances to heal from; a destruction of her and most of her children’s prospects, to her and their displacements and devastation, gave her insight into people living in subaltern positions in the peripheries and centers of empire, as well as exiled, refugee and enslaved people. Since Scotland features in Ethelinde‘s symbolic weave, my trajectory will include how Scotland is used in The Young Philosopher, Smith’s last novel, and my line of texts will be Scottish. My candidates for brief comparison will move from life-writing by Anne Grant, to a novel set in Scotland by Margaret Oliphant, and finally poetry by Carol Ann Duffy. I will read Smith’s creations of Scotland as a form of sympathetic reciprocal making, an act of appropriation from her reading, local heritage and knowledge of colonial lives, which coheres with the resistance of these Scottish women who map their books with imagined communities of women in mind and also undermine hegemonic male and British norms.

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The Falls of Clyde 1801 Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851 The National Gallery of Scotland http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/TW0162
The Falls of Clyde (1801) by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)

The topic of course reaches well beyond gender. As I was working on the proposal, an important book for me became Carla Sassi’s Why Scottish Literature Matters. She suggests that “key” tones to Scottish literature after the union (and especially the destruction of folk Scottish culture, the clans, the take over by capitalist of the lowlands) include: a deep experience of dislocation, of internal exile, and “a pervasive cultural malaise.” Kenneth Simpson in his The Protean Scot: The Crisis of Identity in 18th Century Scottish Literature argues we find a multiplicity of voices, fragments of personalities as there are different languages, influential other cultures in Scotland, approximating a modern condition. In the last few days reading Norma Clarke’s cultural biography of Oliver Goldsmith (as part of Grub Street) I have been seeing the returnees from Ireland, the escapists to England and Europe as in analogous positions. With them (Joyce for example, Sheridan Le Fanu whose House by the Churchyard I read this past January), mimicry disrupts the main discourse by imitating it in a parodic way. The form of displacement is a privileged one (when aware writers remain in periphery they experience internal exile as Azar Nafasi and others call it). Susan Ferrier in her Marriage, Macpherson in his Ossian poems, Elizabeth Bowen in the 20th century, Anne Enright today are all engaged in acts of appropriation and compromise.

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Lady Anne Barnard — from her Cape journals

Still, there is nothing I enjoy more than reading Scottish writing by women and looking at landscape art attributed to or by women. Like Anne Grant and Anne Home Hunter, both of whom are Scottish by origin, but moved about (Grant the most widely). My idea is the global perspective is naturally a woman’s and Smith has it across her works.

Not only that but unlike Grant and Hunter she does not sentimentalize the people in the periphery ; she does not present their culture as spiritually superior (which is what Hunter does and Grant too sometimes), and she is candid on how the exploiters are using the native peoples though she recognizes she is one of the exploiters. That is the value of Ethelinde. She has her hero go off to exploit India to come back with a fortune; he does not because he cannot get himself to behave the way he has to in order to wrest wealth from what’s going on. So she is part of the imperialist class and she has herself not been to these places.

Not that I deny the intensely personal nature of her outlook and her candour about this. Jacqueline Labbe has argued Smith’s use of place is dissolving away under the impetus of her grief; her very identity has no purchase anywhere on the earth because deep-seated fundamental needs in her have been thwarted – and I think it’s her desire for erotic love and companionship with a decent man. Her ambitions which center in her children turn continually to anguish as they are forced to wander about a dangerous amoral world.

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These books, these women authors who write l’ecriture-femme, their mood, their modes are all wrapped up together with Jane Austen for me.

You have read Mrs Smith’s Novels, I suppose? said she to her Companion — , ‘Oh! Yes,’ replied the other, ‘and I am quite delighted with them — They are the sweetest things in the world –‘ ‘And which do you prefer of them?’ ‘Oh! dear, I think there is no comparison between them — Emmeline is so much better than any of the others –‘ ‘Many people think so, I know, but there does not appear so great a disproportion in their Merits to me; do you think it is better written?’ ‘Oh! I do not know anything about that — but it is better in every thing — Besides, Ethelinde it is so long –‘ ‘That is a common objection I believe,’ said Kitty, ‘but for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.’ ‘So do I, only I get tired of it before it is finished.’ ‘But did not you find the story of Ethelinde very interesting? and the Descriptions of Grasmere, are not they Beautiful?’ ‘Oh, I missed them all, because I was in such a hurry to know the end of it’ — ” Jane Austen, Catherine, or the Bower

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One of Posy Simmonds’s illustrations for Heidi Thomas’s mini-series Cranford Chronicles, adapted from Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, Mr Harrison’s Confessions and My Lady Ludlow: it represents Lady Ludlow’s estate and is reminiscent of pictures of Bignor Park, Sussex, where Smith grew up (site includes a small section on Smith)

Gaskell is my latest love.

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To come down to practicalities, my daughter, Izzy will come with me; she’ll come to the conference for one day, for the other days of sessions and papers, she’ll explore Chawton (see the cottage again) and the surrounding place. Gilbert White’s house is not far; I’ll find out where Steventon is — an archeaological dig is going on. Izzy and I explored Jane Austen sites in Portsmouth and Winchester one summer day using a bus. We were staying in Chichester with Jim that week. There will be a day going to Charlotte Smith sites which tour she’ll come on. Then we’ll have three days in London.

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This may be by one of several amateur women landscape artists of the later 18th century (it may not); and I am not sure of her last name — her first is Anna and she was perhaps Polish (such is still the state of studies of women artists)

Ellen

AViewofBoxHillSurrey1733GeorgeLambert (Medium)
A View of Box Hill, Surrey (1733) by George Lambert

People disappear all the time. Young girls run away from home. Children stray from their parents and are never seen again. Housewives take the grocery money, and a taxi to the train station. Most are found eventually. Disappearances, after all, have explanations. Usually. Strange, the things you remember. Single images and feelings that stay with you down through the years. (Opening voice-over of Outlander, from Gabaldon’s novel, script Roger Moore)

Dear friends and readers,

This series of blog notes on the talks I heard will be even less representative than usual since I arrived late Thursday afternoon, too late to hear any of the Thursday sessions, and left Saturday afternoon before the women’s caucus luncheon ended. I was driving myself to Pittsburgh, a five hour plus trip for me, so did not try to come after teaching ended later Wednesday afternoon, but rather set off on Thursday around 11 am. I knew I should aim to return before dark on Saturday. I did enjoy two lunches and two dinners with friends, went to both receptions, renewed acquaintances and made a couple of new friends. I bought Norma Clarke’s Brothers of the Quill: Oliver Goldsmith in Grub Street. For my own records and if anyone wants to peruse heads of topics within panels, and some details of some of the papers I heard, I offer two blogs’ worth of notes.

Thursday (March 31st) while I was driving there: I regretted missing “Literary History and Life Writing: The Development of Non-Fiction in the 18th century” (the panel began 8 in the morning, and had papers on theatrical biography and lives of Johnson); “In the 1720s …” (this was a panel beginning at 9:45 am, had 8 speakers, and must’ve revealed intriguing set of connections); “Widows and Working Women: Making a Living in the 18th century” (11:30 am, panel I would have loved to hear for the topic and especially a paper on “the widowed Anna Dorothea Therbusch,” a woman artist). In the afternoon I would have chosen one of the two panels: “Psychological Trauma in the Long Eighteenth Century” (II, 2:30 pm). The first included how to express trauma; on war, torture, Burney’s masectomy; Goethe’s Werther, and on people who might be considered failures). The second was called “Women in Motion: The Figure of the Female Traveler in 18th century Literature and Culture” and had papers on Sophia Lee’s Recess, Lady Anne Barnard’s orientalism, Indian women travelers, and Burney’s Wanderer). How I would have enjoyed and profited from these. I reached the hotel while the last panel I would have chosen was just about ending: “”Inside the Artist’s Studio” (4:45 pm, in Rome, the art marketplace).

But I was up bright and early on Friday (April 1st) and listened to the round table panel “against the novel” (8 am, chaired by Scott Black and Andrew Jarrell). I chose it unlike many of the round tables, the titles of the participants’ papers were cited, so I had an idea of what might be discussed. My interest was stirred because too much is still perhaps made of the realistic novel in literary studies. The session suggested among younger scholars, this is no longer true.

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Ian Watt’s famous book is still at the center of discussions: this is the cover of the first paperback edition

Two stood out among the short papers. Nicole Wright discussed an emergent genre at the close of the century: (ostensibly) non-fiction lives of lawyers, and one in particular, the anonymous Life of a Lawyer, which is a sort of Horatio Alger story, boy begins as orphan and ends Lord Chancellor and is presented plausibly, a believably imagined individual. These reveal that the professional lawyer often came from below high gentry. Ms Wright suggested these faux and real autobiographies are preoccupied with the problem of facts: is this factual, can you know what is, with the lawyer practicing scrutinizing facts. I’ve read of the sweeping changes in the court system where at the opening of the century lawyers were not regularly present at trials, to the end of the century where attorneys for the defense and prosecution and the rigamarole we are used to, with defendants making statements on their own behalf had begun. Rachel Carnel talked about how students today relate to secret histories. Ms Carnell suggested such back stories, digressions, fragmentations, non-linear narratives, anecdotes attract readers today. Since I have been reading and teaching Fielding I was very interested in Ms Carnell’s use of Fielding’s theorizing of the novel where he seems to veer towards realism (at least probabilities, consistent time, space) all the while he speaks ironically and himself practices many devices which treat his book as a book in front of the reader.

The talk afterward included Max Novak inquiring why one of the panelists thought Ian Watt’s Rise of the Novel (a target in this session) came out of the cold war, and was told that the book is “suggestively anti-communist” because it promotes individualism. Prof Novak said, to the contrary, Watt’s book is itself Marxist, and was written in the context of the Leavis’s close reading, high moral elite approach to reading. I admit that for me it seemed the panel’s tendency was too strongly to dismiss the value of all gains in psychological, social truths, and shapely art of the “new novel” partly because the panelists themselves favored or were working on non-realistic fictions. One audience member reminded everyone that continental criticism valued the English novel because it observed people in their everyday life, the intimate, particular, is seen as valuable to know about.

As I am just now also reading about on disability, and would like to study its representations in 19th and 20th century fiction and life-writing much more, the four longer papers given in “Disability Narratives” (9:45, chaired by James Farr and Stan Booth) engaged me.

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A recent Oxford edition of Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year

Erin Peters discussed texts that presented what we might call post-traumatic stress disorder after the English civil war. Writers were paying attention to invisible wounds, looking to how to cope with trauma. No longer was attributing such suffering to God’s punishment enough. Ms Peters read soldiers petitioning for pensions. They are looking for therapeutic remedies to avoid “self-murder.” Advice includes friends’ care and frequent conversation with trusted friends. Psychological impairment may be said to be central to Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. Inward care is needed to relieve the distressed mind. These writings show people taking such afflictions seriously, and trying to construct stories for relief of trauma the way people do for grief in our era.

Travis Chi Wing Lau discussed Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year as an early groping towards immunology theory. HF moves from stories to statistics and back again, describing quarantine crews, burials. The problem for the world of the book is all forms of prevention seem to fail: religious beliefs and rituals and what was called medicine didn’t work. Daniel Crouch discussed how typography, uses of punctuation, blank spaces on a page were used to represent disability in several texts. Francis Hopkinson had written about fonts and sizes of letters and symbols used expressively so this idea was understood. Mr Crouch showed where the architecture of a page itself was set up to record feelings about disabilities.

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Anne Elliot visiting Mrs Smith and Nurse Rooke (1995 BBC Persuasion)

Maureen Johnson’s paper on Austen’s Persuasion used the word disability to discuss how Austen shows certain social disabilities function like stigmas in society: these include Anne as an older haggard spinster; Captain Benwick as a grieving semi-widower, Hargrave grieving over the death of a friend. The novel has aging people, and people who fake illness (Mary Musgrove) and we have one seriously physically disabled character: Mrs Smith seems unable to walk; her condition is exacerbated by her poverty and widowhood, two more social stigmas or disabilities. Corey Goergen’s paper focused on the unbearable sadness, the emotional pain of debilitation in the later writing of Dorothy Wordsworth as found in her journals.

A prisoner in this quiet room
Nature’s best gifts are mine
Friends — books — and rural sights and sounds
Why should I then repine? —

She had Alzheimer’s or some form of senile dementia but her writing also has many of the expressive features of women’s writing, which included reflecting through structure a fluid concept of the self. Dorothy is not anxious about her identity; she writes with great spiritual intensity. We must avoid reading her as if she was some Shakespearean holy fool. She is communicating obliquely “more than 35 years of close intellectual and imaginative companionship” and writing startlingly accurate poetry about her state of mind. This set of verses comes near the end of her papers:

My tremulous fingers feeble hands
Refuse to labour with the mind
And that too oft is misty dark & blind.

The talk afterwards added much to what had been said already. Chris Mounsey asked if words have to be reshaped to reflect disabilities?. To Erin he said the movement she is describing is from demonizing to therapy, and we should look to see how the tone of a piece changes, and tone towards the person suffering when the language of blame disappears. One problem in Defoe we see is how the readers can misinterpret in terms of what they already know. Chris suggested at the core of the problem of writing disability is the use of the word “normal.” Another member of the audience suggested that a study of the history of medical narratives shows mostly narratives of triumph where the person is cured. He said we need to overturn these falsifying patterns, see pain as normal, and that all personalities are at some level fragile.

I’ve been so interested in Scottish literature and Scottish identity the last few months that I went to “Upstairs, Downstairs in Scotland through the long 18th century.”

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Kinross, the house as photographed when it was recently sold once again (for a huge sum)

I stayed for two papers. Clarisse Godard Desmarest described the life of Sir William Bruce (1630-1710), a Scottish gentleman-architect, who built a grand house famous today: Kinross. Bruce was rewarded for his loyalty to the Stuarts after the Restoration, and plans were set afoot to build a beautiful house, and surround it with remarkable gardens. He was founding a family dynasty. She then covered what is left of the letters of Bruce’s first wife, Mary Halkett, to show us that a great deal of the successful implementation of the owners’ scheme is owing to her force, diligence and tact. Ms Demarest covered many details of what was built, planted, what trophies are there.

Mark Wallace’s paper on “High Life Below Stairs” was on the intersection of class conflicts: while he began by describing Edinburgh clubs and elite social life, his focus was eventually on how the upper classes ended the customs of giving servants vails (big tips). Mr Wallace described changing attitudes of mind towards pleasure and workin Edinburgh; that volunteerism was part of its social ethos. The Edinburgh clubs promoted philanthropy, reading and writing; they worked to mitigate some of the miseries inflicted on people during lowland clearances, and the destruction of the highland culture. They wanted their organization to outshine the English. At the same time they were seeking shore up the hierarchies that kept them in power. The claim was giving vails disrupted social intercourse (especially visiting) between the upper classes (because they cost too much, because servants drank too much when given money), and the practice was with rigorous repression discontinued. Hypocrisy cannot be denied as these clubs (however decorously) used alcohol themselves during festivities which were seen as enacting masculine bonding. For these elite groups it was a question of how to manage servants (repressing pride and any “licentiousness”) so as to network comfortably and conveniently in their own houses, but we and the middle and lower classes then could see brought to the surface class tensions and how servants lived disciplined marginalized lives. Mr Wallace described an often-cited and often-performed farcical play, Garrick’s High Life Below Stairs which presented these problems through satiric parody, in effect making light of serious issues. I thought of the falsfications of the enormously popular Downton Abbey while at the same time it dramatized class conflicts and showed us the vulnerability of the servants to the power of their masters and mistresses.

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The Lisbon Earthquake (1755, modern representation)

I then hurried to the poster session on the 17th floor lobby area and walked from poster to poster talking to and listening to innovative interactive ways (using software programs) the various instructors/professors were teaching students how to do research, about the 18th century. After lunch, Felicity Nussbaum read aloud the Presidential address by Srinivas Aravamudan, “From Enlightenment to Anthropocene.” I feel sure this post-colonial and cosmopolitan meditation on geological epochs, different philosophical approaches to history (including the popularity of vast tomes of encyclopedic books), geology and geography (climate change), and time itself, centering on the figure of Giambattista Vico while along the way writers from Voltaire to Montesquieu, the Lisbon Earthquake, the formation of the European mountains, were discussed, will be published. I’ll say only that I was attracted to the outlook of read text, which seemed justifiably pessimistic in the way it approached the time when (perhaps) earth’s people will have so changed the earth that our species can no longer survive on it and go extinct. The contemporary illustrations chosen were illuminating as also portraits of individuals less well-known now.

The long day ended with the panel on which I gave my paper: John O’Neill’s “The Eighteenth Century On Film” (4:30-6:00 pm).

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Jim and Jinny Carter, he dying from his unjust imprisonment (1975-76 Poldark, scene not in the source book nor in 2015 film)

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Captain Blamey and Verity at the ball, he blaming her for not being willing to flee with him (alluding to Wentworth to Anne Elliot, Persuasion, not in the source book nor 1975-76 films)

Mine was the first paper, “Poldark Rebooted: 40 years on.” I demonstrated a plethora of 1960-70s films have been re-made within this time-frame and that with a couple of exceptions, the new films are using real or fantasy history to create a past with different emphases from the one realized earlier in order to project and/or construct an imposed or perceived group identity intended to allay insecurities of our era. I used the Poldark pair as a particularly lucid example of typical changes: the 1970s mini-series series dramatizes exploitative inexorable conflicts along class, political and gender and generation lines. Far from from presenting a strong community identity as way for individuals to solve their lives’ problems, the older mini-series centers on characters presented as individuals escaping – or failing to escape from – invisible coercive and sometimes unjust norms (prisons). The films identify with the radical, the rebel, and take a strongly feminist (sometimes anachronistically so) stance. The 2015 series reveals a single script-writer using film technologies to make mythic matter for an idealized perceived indwelling heroic community identity as a solution to individual problems. The women are now subordinated to, work for their families and working businesses, and their children, wherein they find their meaning and safety. The parallel for the first series is The Onedin Line, where there is much trust in existence itself, high scepticism towards religionm trust in technology; the parallel for the second Outlander where characters live in a spiritualized landscape, what happens in life mysterious, often monstrous, and the future something to be guarded against, potentially dark and grim. The actuating idea is people need to hold together, stay in a single imaginary space, and yet experience is centrifugal, now and again the strength of community as powerful when united against single or small groups of much more powerful individuals is shown to be a delusion.

Jennifer Wilson’s paper was on Alan Bennett’s use of diary materials (Greville’s and Burney’s especially) for his film, The Madness of George III. She suggested he has done this again for his film adaptation of his play, The Lady in the Van.

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Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings as Miss Shepherd and Bennett (Lady in the Van, 2016)

Ms Wilson played clips from The Madness of George III showing how the rhythm of the scenes mirrored the movements of the diaries, and also how effective unusual camera work, close-ups especially. She talked of how Nigel Hawthorne’s performance was much enhanced (as would be Maggie Smith’s).

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The opening prologue and over-voice of Claire, deeply regretful and yet thrilled remembering 1945 from her perspective of 1743 (Outlander 2015)

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Jamie MacTavish and Claire now Mrs Beauchamp (the first of many mutually nurturing rides in extremis together)

Courtney Hoffman argued that Outlander is a “feminist film text,” that the film used voice-over, montage, and a female gaze to break down the strong tendency of action-adventure romance to give us a male story. Instead we have story of female agency, based on a woman’s memory; Claire’s two voices, one from the present which turns into past and the other in the past which becomes the present are in charge, are shaping what we feel and what we see. Claire is pro-active, often controls what is happening. The mini-series overturns our gender expectations.

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From Belle, the white and black heroines sewing together (Belle, 2013)

Steven Thomas’s rich paper covered several eras of films about slavery as well as several types of slave narrative films. There are commercial films meant to please large audiences, often majority white: these include plantation dramas of nostalgia, with the displacement of the fallen south onto a guilty (villainous, trangressive) woman (e.g., Birth of a Nation, Jezebel, Gone with the Wind). There are the evangelical and nationalistic films (funded by religious groups), linear in narrative, with redeemed and/or heroic protagonists (Amazing Grace, Roots, Jefferson in Paris). Some commercial films are aimed at African and African-Americans too: anti-plantation films, Blaxpolitation; they exploit voyeurism, fantasies of violence, “both” sides are transgressive and cruel (Mandingo, Cobra Verde, The Legend of Nigger Charlie). Unfortunately the films least well-known are often the truest to what was the experience of slavery and its politics. These include the 1960s and 70s Marxist films analyzing the political economies, dramatizing corrosive and destructive policies, using complex social antagonisms of all sorts (Tamango, The Last Supper, Burn!). Mr Thomas seemed to think finest as a type are the Pan-Africanist films: these layer memory, history, are de-centered and communal narratives, sometimes African in origin (Ceddo, Daughters of the Dust, Sankofa). Mr Thomas found more hope in the sense of education of viewers in the more widely-distributed “new” movies (very recent costume dramas, combining motifs (Lincoln, Belle, 12 Years a Slave, Toussaint Louverture, Tula: the Revolt). He offered lists of books, and articles on historical films, heritage, films about slavery, black cinema.

Though we did not have much time afterward, what talk we did have was stimulating. People seemed most interested in Outlander. Someone objected to Ms Hoffman’s thesis on the grounds that Claire is continually imperilled, often assaulted, near raped, and repeatedly saved in the old-fashioned way (in the nick of time) by her lover-husband from the past, Jamie MacTavish. I suggested what was strikingly innovative was how Jamie was given the over-voice most of the time in the second to last and penultimate episodes. In these it is he who is imprisoned and tortured (making the film politically relevant today) by Claire’s husband now in the past presented as a repressed homosexual cruel man who whips mercilessly and then seduces, rapes Jamie repeatedly until Jamie’s sense of self is shattered and he is giving in sexually to his abuser. This material transgresses almost every taboo on the presentation of masculinity in most films. People asked Mr Thomas questions soliciting information mostly, but there theme of a black community came up and he praised those films which do show us such communities, how they form and function. He said he is in the midst of publishing a collection of film studies, one of which will be his own paper. A woman came up to me at the close of the session and told me she is publishing a book on film where she has an essay on the two Poldarks where she basically offers the same perspective I did. Hers is not yet published. Mine will soon be up on the Net on a group blog maintained by a consortium of university and commercial groups (ABOPublic is its name).

And so the academic and scholarly sessions of Thursday and Friday that I attended ended.

BAL5239 The Shrimp Girl, c.1745 (oil on canvas) by Hogarth, William (1697-1764) oil on canvas 63.5x50.8 National Gallery, London, UK English, out of copyright
William Hogarth, The Shrimp Girl (1745)

Ellen

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Angelica Kauffman, A Turkish Lady Reclining, Gazing at a Miniature (1773)

Friends and readers,

Further to my coming blogs on women artists and while studying and reading about Angelica Kauffman and Anna Dorothea Therbusch (1721-82), last night I read Linda Nochlin’s famous (oft-referred to) essay, “Why have there been no great women artists?” (reprinted in her Women, Art and Power and Other Essays). I was surprised and disappointed to find she dismissed the idea of l’ecriture-femme as non-existent. She couldn’t discern this because her categories were so broad and general, and she named women as if we could understand the texture, content, nuance, context, so much part of any particular works’ true quality by just citing the artist’s name.

How is Kauffman’s Turkish Lady Reclining different from male orientalism of the 18th century: it’s not salacious, not overtly sensual, rather it’s contemplative, meditative, an imaginary space outside male control (an “inner orient” Nochlin herself called this in another essay), liberating because meant for women to identify with, the female gaze, for female patrons

Nochlin also seemed to agree there have been no great women artists! There is no female Michelangelo, says she (quite seriously). Well no but Artemisia Gentileschi just as good — yes I do, and better in some way. Why is not Elizabeth Armstrong Forbes a great woman artist, as great and better than many of the men so lauded: I can’t stand Gaugin; Van Gogh is repetitive.

Her argument is the very idea of the Great Artist is suspect. She likens this to God-worship, fetishing. (Jim thought this way when he used to say individual works might be great but that most artists have uneven oeuvres and it’s silly to elevate people so.) But then she goes on to excuse the lack of great women artists: We look at, say, wealthy or at all powerful aristocrats, we find hardly a great artist: a person’s circumstances, class, ethnicity, whole grounding nearly (not quite) predicts whether or no he (or she) will make, promote, or write about great art. Gender is clearly another category, and she has a section on how women are taught from birth to sacrifice themselves to others, and from a young age taught and placed in situations which sap, undermine, make impossible aspiration to sustain such an achievement over time. Then though she goes on to lament the lack of truly great women artists, with her example the self-deprecation of Rosa Bonheur (1822-99), how she tried to dress like a man, how she undermined her own extensive studies of animal anatomy.

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Rosa Bonheur, Sheep [reclining] by the Sea (1865), commissioned by the empress of France, Eugene, from Bonheur’s travels through the Scottish highlands — not at all the seemingly usual stampede-like picture, nor sentimentalized into people-like domesticity

But (contradictorily) she has suggested the whole idea is teleological in the first place. Which is it? The concept is absurd or women artists haven’t got a chance? Along the way she also argues that individual books on individual women or studies get women nowhere. Nowhere if their aim is to procure the respect of a majority of men whose aesthetic sensibilities are different from women’s.

At the core of this essay is Nochlin’s desire for the admiration of male critics, to have women’s art included in male-controlled, run, financed exhibitions. She wants that women should be admired because she’s a woman. And by whom? well men or women and on men’s terms because she is too impatient to uncover alternatives and assert this are as good or superior, and if ignored, carry on regardless.

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Susan Herbert, a female urchin grinning (remember Angharad Rees as Demelza when Ross Poldark rides off with her at the fair and he offers her a job as a servant …)

The sentence that was current at the beginning of the nineteenth century ran something like this perhaps: ‘The grandeur of their works was an argument with them, not to stop short, but to proceed. They could have no higher excitement or satisfaction than in the exercise of their art and endless generations of truth and beauty. Success prompts to exertion; and habit facilitates success.’ That is a man’s sentence; behind it one can see Johnson, Gibbon and the rest. It was a sentence that was unsuited for a woman’s use. Charlotte Brontë, with all her splendid gift for prose, stumbled and fell with that clumsy weapon in her hands. George Eliot committed atrocities with it that beggar description. Jane Austen looked at it and laughed at it and devised a perfectly natural, shapely sentence proper for her own use and never departed from it. Thus, with less genius for writing than Charlotte Brontë, she got infinitely more said. Indeed, since freedom and fullness of expression are of the essence of the art, such a lack of tradition, such a scarcity and inadequacy of tools, must have told enormously upon the writing of women. Moreover, a book is not made of sentences laid end to end, but of sentences built, if an image helps, into arcades or domes. And this shape too has been made by men out of their own needs for their own uses. There is no reason to think that the form of the epic or of the poetic play suit a woman any more than the sentence suits her. But all the older forms of literature were hardened and set by the time she became a writer. The novel alone was young enough to be soft in her hands another reason, perhaps, why she wrote novels. Yet who shall say that even now ‘the novel’ (I give it inverted commas to mark my sense of the words’ inadequacy), who shall say that even this most pliable of all forms is rightly shaped for her use? No doubt we shall find her knocking that into shape for herself when she has the free use of her limbs; and providing some new vehicle, not necessarily in verse, for the poetry in her. — Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

Ellen

Kauffmann, Angelica; Penelope Taking Down the Bow of Ulysses; National Trust, Saltram; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/penelope-taking-down-the-bow-of-ulysses-101590
Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807), Penelope Taking Down the Bow of Ulysses (1788)

Dear friends and readers,

Lest you think I’ve given up on my women artists blogs, I write an interim few thoughts on the problems women had making money for their work. (See my last, later 17th century Mary Beale.) I’ve been reading a much respected book on Angelica Kauffman’s Art and Sensibility by Angelica Rosenthal in an effort to understand why her art is spoken of by women art critics and historians with such high praise. I acknowledge and am drawn to the brilliance of some of her portraits (which I’ll discuss when I finally do my blog on her), and those few of her paintings reproduced exquisitely well, with some sense of the full range of her rich vivid colors conveyed, and occasional somber depictions of mournful moments in the repertoire of classical stories, where color, design, mood are pitch perfect

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Kauffman, Virgil writing his own epitaph at Brundisium (1785)

Nonetheless, most reproductions of pictures by Kauffman include embarrassing items, and too many of these, as 1) fat female bodies lying supinely, enacting fecundity; 2) ludicrously sentimental scenes featuring marginalized women, often nameless from classical stories; 3) expressionless faces, on top of bodies which look like they don’t weigh anything. Rosenthal’s book is itself much praised for general applicability to all women’s art. It is. She defines and and persuasively carves out to describe what is called l’ecriture-femme in women’s writing for women visual artists.

Rosenthal does something more: she gets beyond the obvious obstacles for women artists (no liberty outside the family, married off young, endless pregnancies and early death from these, refused training, despised as woman) to those not often discussed. What she does is call attention to the experience of painting for customers — for that is what a professional career is about. Of how prestige is gained to make larger profits. So quite apart from the gender of the customer, in the 18th century one was hampered by having to paint the rich, having to replicate the values which sustain their wealth, having to picture cant-driven norms for the all-important commissions. Moving outside family-centered portraits to male customers (who after all controlled the money), How do you manage to to choose appealing subjects when what the men wanted (and they have the money) at the core were pictures of suppliant nubile fecund-looking women? Nowadays male directors prefer very young semi-anorexic girls for their chief actress. For such commissions, Angelica Kauffman wanted to paint historical paintings as these were what was most respected: I have learnt (she makes it explicit) from Rosenthal that meant classical stories even more often than the “heroic” battle scenes and public rituals conferring power on men. Further, in the 18th century these classical stories were often actuated by an idea that comes down to soft-core porn that flatters male power.

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Kauffman, From Zeuxis Choosing his Models for His Painting of Helen of Troy (1773-1780)

Two examples: it seems a very popular story painted repeatedly was that of Campaspe: Pliny recounted how Alexander was so pleased by Appelles’ depiction of his slave-mistress, Alexander gave Campaspe to Appelles; favored in these depictions was the inclusion of one of Alexander’s homoerotic (homosexual) friends. Nicholas Vleughels was among those who painted Campaspe as offering her body openly to Appelles and whoever else was in the studio, her expression all docile compliance, her legs parted, a slave nearby lifting up part of her for inspection (1715). Later in the century Diderot was sufficiently alert to the salacious aspects of this in another version of this (by Etienne Falconet, 1765) that he interrupts his salivating to object the portrait suggests a prostitute so unworthy a viewer’s attention; on the other hand there is too much modesty and innocence (stupidity) so she is obviously someone who will go from man to man. This in euphemistic French is the burden of his Salon here.

What’s a woman to do with such stories? Rosenthal reproduces Kauffman’s depiction of this scene where the difference is Campaspe is actively participating, much more lively in body, more centered in the picture, and (in the age-old trope) has one breast bared which she offers up. Rosenthal goes on about how Kauffman has improved on, given a proto-feminist (?!) turn to the story by showing the heroine involved as negotiator. Since when is openly forced prostitution agency? (I know since trafficking began to be disguised as sex-work by women surviving from this industry.) I wouldn’t reprint Kauffman’s picture any more than I would Vleughels or Falconet’s. More briefly, a second favorite story was that of Zeuxis choosing a model, and in Kauffman’s version we have three very sexy models (of the usual soft-body type) but also an alert woman with a piquant expression behind him who is presented as much stronger looking and possibly about the paint the scene herself. You see her, a detail in the picture, blown up large above. Is this a vast improvement on the total lack of agency usually seen in such pictures? Rosenthal asks that we praise and take seriously these changes and these depictions. The truth is Kauffman’s pictures leave men as powerful with most of the women differently salacious.

A second kind of related problem is doing portraiture. It was part of the custom for selling pictures to have an open studio where customers could come and see your wares; in these places artists did portraits. Obviously a relationship between the woman artist and subject evolves and now the problem is men are made uncomfortable because there is an implicit submission going on, quite apart from the possibility of women gaining sexual power through seduction. Diderot who was franker than many is again our witness. It seems that Diderot ended up allowing himself to be painted by Anna Dorothea Therbusch (1721-82) with his shirt partly off. He wrote about this in a titillating way, and knowing that people could insinuate a liaison had gone on, he meant his piece to be funny — because everyone knew Therbusch was old and ugly. Women had somehow to negotiate a respected presence in their own studio, and that meant they had to present a subjectivity for their subjects that was constrained; Rosenthal interprets one of Rosenthal’s depictions of Garrick as showing him trying to fend off any sense that he was vulnerable to her.

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A detail from another portrait of Garrick by Kauffman (not well known, not an ostensible show-offy studio product)

How much does it help to be told that Kauffman chose to paint Penelope again and again in non-narrative aggressive-passive ways because she was reaching for “monumental time,” a concept developed by Kristeva: women are said to move away from “linear time” and “measure existence via repetition, procreativity, and motherhood.’ I know the marks or features of l’ecriture-femme in writing include cyclical structure, a female consciousness with her type of life at the center. I know that part of the task of persuading 50% of the population to like women’s art is to present and teach and explain the value, meaning, beauty of a woman’s aesthetic, and their invention of genres that express their lives. But l’ecriture-femme cannot make something inferior or deeply unethical better. I began this blog with Penelope Taking Down the Bow of Ulysses from the series of Penelope that Kauffman painted because I needed no argument or explanation to recognize its mystery, beauty, numinous tone, glimmering color.

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Or this of Bacchus Teaching the Nymphs to Make Verses by Kauffman (1788) — this image fails to convey the rich red and orange hues, the deep blues and brightness of the original, its sensuality and psychological looks on the learning nymphs’ faces

So from Rosenthal’s opening two chapters on the commercial world of 18th century art, I’ve learned the answer to why so few women have been recognized as great goes well beyond the obvious obstacles, which now for me include the very different aesthetics women practice. What to do about this lack of recognition which is needed has no uncomplicated solutions. Arguing there is no such thing as women’s art, that women do not make art for other women as women, that see they do the men’s genre here or there, just erase women’s art further and do a disservice to the female audience, nor will qualified pandering persuade anyone with an ethical compass.

Not that I’m giving up on my project. There are centuries where an egalitarian perspective begins to take hold, painting out-of-doors, many other genres beyond male history and porn (which some of the Pre-Raphaelite pictures are disguised versions of, others bring back the trope of women as witches). Rosenthal’s book is extraordinarily instructive; I’ve learnt the name of two more 18th century women artists I never heard of before, and found a picture by one of them to share here:

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Marie Genevieve Bouliar (162-1825), Chevalier Alexandre-Marie Lenoir (1796) — he is holding onto a catalogue he made from a museum to save is art from destruction, as he shields his face from the woman’s artist’s scrutiny

Ellen

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Chardin, The Attributes of Music (1765)

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A detail from The Diligent Mother

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A second detail from same picture

Here you are again, you great magician, with your mute compositions — Diderot

“Who ever told you one painted with colors? One uses colors but one paints with sentiment — Chardin

Dear friends and readers,

It should go without saying that my love for art — and many art books in my library — which has led me to start a series of blog-essays on woman artists, encompasses many male artists too. And those favorite schools of art women participated in or created are often the same ones I find my favorite male artists in too. I have long loved Chardin’s pictures and Diderot’s meditative reviews on them. Above is a reproductive image of one of a copy of one of Chardin’s paintings that I have on one of the walls in my house. I was attracted to Francois Duparc (1726-1778) and Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818) because their art reminded me of his. The latter for their shared area of food:

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Basket of Peaches, Glass of Water (sometimes called Wine), a Knife, and Walnuts (1768)

So when I was offered a chance to review Paula Radisich’s Pastiche, Fashion, and Galanterie in Chardin’s Genre Subjects: Looking Smart (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2014), I delightedly looked forward to reading a book which would deepen my appreciation of the man’s vision, artistic techniques, place in the philosophical and aesthetic currents of his era.

'Young_Student_Drawing',_oil_on_panel_by_Jean_Siméon_Chardin,_c._1738,_Kimbell_Art_Museum
Young Student Drawing (1734)

Alas, the book was a disappointment but I reviewed it as best I could on its own terms, and am using this blog to announce the publication of my review in the Intelligencer for March 2014, po 40-44. Rather than quote from or paraphrase it, I will make the review available soon. As I read it I realized Radisch was determined to turn Chardin into a marketplace man satisfying a frivolous elite, performing away for prestige and money, with his models mediocre and salacious Dutch and French pictures. She says that above all Chardin wanted to be seen as a gentleman.

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She didn’t include this pastel self-portrait

She chose to cover only the years 1737-52 and only those paintings which could be viewed as genre scenes and places them in the context of the commercial most fashionable paintings (often from a slightly earlier era), trade cards, with a framing taken from the brief half-flippant comments by buyers, collectors, contemporary curators of shows. She concentrated on the famous young gentleman making houses of cards, a very Watteau-like young gentlemen and male servants at billiards, and fashionable ladies in enigmatic poses.

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Game of Billiards

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Domestic Pleasures

Radisch’s way of reading Domestic Pleasures implies that Chardin assumed we might ask (salaciously, as so much fun), Is she waiting for a man to come and fuck her? or is her guilty secret that she just finished masturbating? Of course it’s all too well-bred (and snobbishly elitist) to make this explicit.

In such “le gout moderne” readings, Radische makes much of the gestures of Chardin’s subject’s feet and shoes (fetishes you see) too:

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A third detail from The Diligent Mother – this time her feet and shoes

Radisch dismisses Diderot’s Salons (his readings of Chardin) as hypocritical, shaped by a political agenda. Radisch turns Chardin into a marketplace man satisfying a frivolous elite, performing (quiet smut) away. Her book belongs to a conservative backlash encountered in so many recent scholarly books; another one I reviewed just such another on films, Nora Gilbert’s Better Left Unsaid.

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The Morning Toilette fits this time span and typology — its enigmatic symbols can be allegorized according to the eye of the beholder

So too

ChildinAbsorbe
Saying Grace (with a detail from the painting enlarged) — very like the diligent mother in feel and mood — because of a similar patterning is then drawn into the mould.

Studying the paintings once again with a context just as historical — Chardin’s contemporary peers and predecessors like Watteau in France, what we find in novels and plays and poetry of the era — I begin to see again that Chardin’s superiority is real and resides in his doing genre paintings of a depth & beauty with a naturalism and quiet ethical feel in the central figures hard to get into words. A number of years ago my husband and I went to one of these gargantuan wonderful exhibits at the National Gallery, The Age of Watteau, Chardin and Fragonard, edited by Colin B. Bailey, also an exhibition catalogue (Yale University Press and the National Galley of Canada, 2003), which contains a number of essays by the finest art scholars and long close readings of many many paintings from the best and typical painters of the era (just about all men in this book): I bought the book and had many times sat looking at its many color plates and used to share thoughts about them with Jim. I went through them again over a few weeks in late summer. The monkey pictures that interest me were left out of Radisch’s book.

XIR188756 The Monkey Antiquarian, 1740 (oil on canvas) by Chardin, Jean-Baptiste Simeon (1699-1779) oil on canvas 81x65 Louvre, Paris, France Lauros / Giraudon French, out of copyright

XIR188756 The Monkey Antiquarian, 1740 (oil on canvas) by Chardin, Jean-Baptiste Simeon (1699-1779)
oil on canvas
81×65
Louvre, Paris, France
Lauros / Giraudon
French, out of copyright

I recommend to my reader interested in Chardin, Frédéric Ogée, “Chardin’s Time: Reflections on the Tercentenary Exhibition and Twenty Years of Scholarship, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 33:3 (Spring, 2000):431-450. Ogée ends his essay with some thoughts by Michael Podro on an essay by Proust on Chardin which I find applicable to what Radisch finds in Chardin:

we do not merely confront them but occupy them with our thought and adjusting our attention and following the connections they afford … Critical description never properly or adequately corresponds to the interest and force of a painting, both because our interest is irreducibly bound to our perceiving and because what we describe takes on its force for us only in the context of innumerable other recognitions in which it is embedded and which lie beyond the scope of describing.

From my point of view (which I didn’t put into my review but is appropriate in blogs), morally, naturalistically, what do we see feelingly?

Jean-Baptiste-Simeon-Chardin-xx-A-Rabbit-Two-Thrushes-and-Some-Straw-on-a-Stone-Table-xx-Musee-de-la-Chasse-et-de-la-NatureChardin
A Rabbit, Two Thrushes and Some Straw on a Stone Table — poor creatures, victims of man’s ferocity and cruel indifference afterward

I like to think Austen would have liked Chardin’s genre scenes. She would have seen the what the above picture shows. In her letters when she mentions the sport of shooting among her brother and their friends, she uses the term slaughter, when she has characters in her novels out shooting, they are ridiculously frivolous in their words presenting themselves as if about a serious task (I think of Tom Bertram).

Ellen

Here I am, you see, staring at a picture. I can never get by this shop without stopping. But what a thing is here by way of a boat. Do look at it. Did you ever see the like? What queer fellows your fine painters must be, to think that any body would venture their lives in such a shapeless old cockleshell as that. And yet, here are two gentlemen stuck up on it mightily at their ease, and looking about them at the rocks and mountains as if they were not to be upset the next moment, which they certainly must be — Admiral Croft to Anne Elliot, Austen’s Persuasion

pentonvillelookingwestJohnOConnor1884
John O’Connor (1830-1889), Pentonville — looking west (1884)

A Syllabus

On-line at: https://reveriesunderthesignofausten.wordpress.com/2016/03/15/elizabeth-gaskells-north-and-south-in-context-a-spring-syllabus/

For a course at the Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at George Mason University
Day: Eight Wednesdays, mid-day, 11:50 to 1:15 pm
Tallwood, 4210 Roberts Road, Fairfax, Va 22032
Dates: Classes start Mar 23rd; last class May 11, 2016.
Dr Ellen Moody

Description of Course

Gaskell wrote introspective domestic fiction, strange melodramatic gothics, political historical fiction, an influential passionate and great biography of Charlotte Bronte, and novels of social protest, including disability, emigration and prostitution, set across the landscape of Victorian industrial cities, the more rural genteel south and London. Born to Unitarians, she became a clergyman’s wife, wrote fiction from her earliest years, published in magazines, and lived for many years in Manchester. Her tale of this city, North and South, which extends to colonial naval adventures abroad and Spain, centers on a strike and lockout, on religious controversies, military injustice, the psychic pain of displacement, regional and class conflicts all aligned with the education of a heroine and her experience of love. We will read her book in the context of Gaskell as a 19th century woman of letters writing in a number of contemporary kinds through reading a few of short stories and her journalism written earlier than this novel and towards the end of her life: “The Old Nurse’s Story (ghost story);” from Cranford, “A love affair of Long Ago/A Visit to an Old Bachelor,” and “Old Letters/Peter”; “Lois the Witch (based on the Salem witch trials); “An Italian Institution” (about La Camorra); and “French Life,” Chapter 3 (a journal diar of her time in Paris, which includes a historical case history of a 16th century woman, abused and murdered by her husband and his brothers, the Marquise de Gange).

songoftheshirtFrankHoll1845to88
Frank Holl (1845-1888), Song of the Shirt

Required Texts:

Elizabeth Gaskell, “A love Affair of Long Ago/A Visit to An Old Bachelor,” “Old Letters/Peter.” Cranford Stories are at:
https://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/EG-Cranford.html#3
https://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/EG-Cranford.html#5 These are also reprinted in any edition of Cranford. The best (because complete) is Cranford, ed. E. P Watson, intro and notes Charlotte Mitchell. Oxford UP, 1998.
—————–. “The Old Nurse’s Tale”: https://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/EG-Nurse.html, , and various anthologies of ghost and gothic stories.
—————–. North and South, ed. intro. Elizabeth Ingram. Penguin, 1995. The recent Oxford classics edition by Angus Easson is also excellent. If you want to understand North and South and its world, you can’t do better than the Norton Critical edition by Alan Shelton.
—————–. “Lois the Witch:” https://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/EG-Lois.html,also reprinted in Elizabeth Gaskell, Cousin Phillis and Other Tales, ed, intro. Angus Eason. Oxford Classics, 1981, and available as a separate text (a thin novella), intro by Jenny Uglow ISBN 1-84391-049-7.
——————-. “An Italian Institution:”
https://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/EG-Italian.html
——————-. “French Life,” Chapter 3:
https://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/EG-Life.html#III

I suggest you bookmark the Elizabeth Gaskell site for all texts, information, biography, publications about her, pictures too:

https://www.lang.nagoya-u.ac.jp/~matsuoka/Gaskell.html

NorthSouthPt1CloseFarShot
Medium range shot of Thornton’s factory

BessyHiggins
Anna Maxwell Martin as Bessy Higgins (from Sandy Welch’s North and South, BBC 2004)

Format: Study group meetings will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion.

Schedule:

Mar 23rd: Introduction: Gaskell’s life, career, read for this day, the three Cranford stories; “Love Affair of Long Ago” and “A Visit to an Old Bachelor” “Old Letters/Peter.”
Mar 30th: Read for this day, “Old Nurse’s Tale” and North and South, Chapters 1-6 (“Haste to the Wedding” to “”Farewell”) I will show 3 brief clips from Heidi Thomas’s Cranford.
Apr 6th: North and South, Chapters 7-16 (“New Faces and New Scenes” to “What Is a Strike?”); read also Jo Pryke, “The Treatment of Political Economy in North and South, The Gaskell Society Journal 4 (1990). Online.
Apr 13th: North and South, Chapters 17-27 (“Likes and Dislikes” to “Fruit Piece”); read also Rosemarie Bodenheimer, North and South: A Permanent State of Change,” Nineteenth-Century Fiction, 34:3 (1979):281-301; Hotz, Mary Elizabeth. “‘Taught by Death What Life Should Be’: Elizabeth Gaskell’s Representation of Death in North and South,” Studies in the Novel 32.2 (Summer 2000): 165-184.
Apr 20th: North and South, Chapters 28 – 36 (“Comfort in Sorrow” to “Union Not Always Strength”). Michael D. Lewis, “Mutiny in the Public Sphere Debating Naval Power in Parliament, the Press, and Gaskell’s North and South, Victorian Review, 36:1 (2010):89-113. We see clips from Welch’s North and South too.
Apr 27th: North and South, Chapters 37-44 (“Looking south” to “Ease Not Peace”); read also Julia Sun Joo-Lee, “The Return of the “Unnative”: The Transnational Politics of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, Nineteenth-Century Literature, 61:4 (2007):449-478; John Pikoulis, North and South: Varieties of Love and Power,” The Yearbook of English Studies, 6 (1976):176-193
May 4th: North and South, Chapters 45-52 (“Not All a Dream” to “Pack Clouds Away”), and “An Italian Institution”
May 11th: Read for this day, Lois the Witch, and “French Life, Chapter 3.” If I can find a suitable clip from Andrew Davies’s Wives and Daughters, I’ll end with that.

DeathofOsborneHamley
From Wives and Daughters, the death of Osborne Hamley (Part 4, Tom Hollander, Michael Gambon, Justine Waddell)

The films, & a few books (any essays will be sent by attachment):

North and South. Dir. Brian Perceval. Screenplay: Sandy Welch. Producer: Kate Bartlett. Featuring Richard Armitage, Daniela Denby-Ashe, Brendan Coyle, Anna Maxwell Martin. BBC, 2004.
Wives and Daughters. Dir. Nicholas Renson. Screenplay: Andrew Davies. Producer: Sue Birtwistle. Featuring: Bill Patterson, Ian Carmichael, Francesca Annis, Justice Waddell, Keeley Hawes, Tom Hollander, Michael Gambon. BBC, 1999.
Cranford: The collection (Chronicles). Dir. Simon Curtis. Screenplay: Heidi Thomas. Produced. Sue Birtwhistle. Featuring: Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins, Michael Gambon, Philip Glenister, Francesca Annis, Lesley Manville (among many others). BBC, 2010.
Bonaparte, Felicia. The Gypsy-Bachelor of Manchester: The Life of Mrs Gaskell’s Demon. Charlottesville: Univ Press of Va, 1992.
Gaskell, Elizabeth. If you like any of the movies, you might want to add My Lady Ludow and Mr Harrison’s Confessions (a novella and story woven into Cranford Chronicles); I also recommend her Mary Barton, Life of Charlotte Bronte (one of the great biographies which shaped our view Bronte, strongly recommended as a wonderful read) and Wives and Daughters.
Harman, Barbara. The Feminine Political Novel in Victorian England. Charlottesville: Univ Press of Virginia, 1998.
Hughes, Linda K. and Michael Lund. Victorian Publishing and Mrs Gaskell’s Work. Charlottesville: Univ Press of Va, 1999.
Matus, Jill, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Elizabeth Gaskell. Cambridge UP, 2007.
Stoneman, Patsy. Elizabeth Gaskell. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1987.
Steinbach, Susie. Understanding the Victorians: Culture and Society in 19th century Britain. London: Routledge, 2012. There is no better book for understanding intimate and public aspects of Victorian life.
Uglow, Jenny. Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories. NY: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1993. The best single book on Gaskell to date in the way Uglow combines biography, literary criticism,and a political and feminist vision.

See also Gaskell’s house, 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester: nowadays a museum

grateasternunderconstructionwmParrrott1857
William Parrott (1813-69) The Great Eastern Under Construction at Millwall on the Isle of Dogs in 1857

Ellen

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