Fan Phenomena: Jane Austen

Good news for fans of Jane, Janeites, and writers of JAFF!

If all that is a little obscure for you, then this is definitely the publication for you. Due out April 2015, this addition to the Fan Phenomena series from Intellect Books will consider the wider world of Jane Austen’s appeal.

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James: the cast from the BBC adaptation

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James: the cast from the BBC adaptation

Call for Submissions

FAN PHENOMENA: JANE AUSTEN

Intellect Books

Editor: Gabrielle Malcolm

A Call for Essay/Chapter Submissions for a collection on the Fan Culture of Jane Austen.

This book will be an edited collection of essays and texts on the Fan Phenomena of Jane Austen. It will be a new addition to the successful Fan Phenomena series from Intellect Books, which acts as a more topic specific accompaniment to their ‘Journal of Fandom Studies’.

The afterlife of Jane Austen’s novels constitutes a vast culture on a global scale. She has remained enduringly popular and in recent years there has been a huge growth of spin-offs, derivations, new adaptations, and homage to her work. The original published novels are a starting point but the focus of this volume is principally on the fan culture, adaptations, cultural appropriations, derivations, JAFF, and Janeite world. The Fan Phenomena series is aimed at the fans and those interested in the cultural and social aspects of the fan culture universes. Submissions need to be entertaining, informative, and jargon free.

Submissions could cover, but are not limited to:

  • TV and film adaptations of the novels over the years and how they differ and reflect the changing reception of the works: such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in the hands of Fay Weldon (1980s) and Andrew Davies (1990s)
  • Feminism and Austen fandom: Emma Thompson’s Oscar-winning adaptation of ‘Sense and Sensibility’
  • Adaptations of the novels that relocate the narratives: e.g. Helen Fielding’s ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’
  • Sequels: ‘Pemberley’ (Emma Tennant), ‘Death Comes to Pemberley’ (PD James), ‘A Darcy Christmas’ (Amanda Grange), etc.
  • Literary and TV spin-offs (with the fan as central figure): e.g. ITV’s ‘Lost in Austen’, Laurie Viera Rigler’s ‘Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict’, Shannon Hale’s ‘Austenland’
  • Racy alternative narratives: Maya Slater’s ‘Diary of’ series
  • The re-imagined Zombie, slasher, horror and Gothic narratives: Amanda Grange’s ‘Mr Darcy Vampyre’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ by Seth Grahame-Smith
  • Tourism, merchandising and the Regency romance industry
  • Cos-play and role play, Jane Austen style
  • Neo-Georgians online and in person: the etiquette and manners
  • The biographical depictions of Austen, e.g. in ‘Becoming Jane’
  • Blogs, JAFF, and fan forum discussions
  • Re-enactments and parallels of plots in books and films like Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘The Jane Austen Book Club’
  • Is it ALL about ‘Pride And Prejudice’? How are the less popular novels featured in the fan’s universe?
  • Fan films, mash-ups, graphic novels, and comic book adaptations
  • THE scene – ‘the wet shirt’ – and the contemporary eroticisation of Austen’s characters.

Final submissions should include 5-7 high quality images. Each chapter needs to be 3,000-3,500 words, and can include a ‘Go Further’ reading/viewing/clickable list.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter and have any questions please contact the editor: Gabrielle Malcolm gabymalcolm@yahoo.co.uk

350 word proposals for submissions need to reach the editor by 30 March 2014, after which the chosen contributors will be notified in a timely fashion. Final completed chapters and images must be submitted to the editor by 15 September, 2014.

For more information on Intellect Books and the Fan Phenomena series please go to:

http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/

Marvel Comics: Pride and Prejudice

Marvel Comics:
Pride and Prejudice

 

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Blogging Braddon 4: Titillation and Tactility in the ‘Tally-HO’ Letter from John Gilby to Mary Braddon (1860)

I was hiding in the stacks of the Augustine Library at Canterbury Christ Church University with Dr Kate Mattacks (UWE) last November, and stifling laughter (yes, academics do sometimes have a good time) – and why? Well, smut – that’s why. I have to be honest. We had uncovered, from amongst the huge array of unpublished materials in the Braddon Archive, a little stash of letters. These date from the time of her affair with John Gilby (1860-61). One of them is in the form of a poem, entitled A Quarter of An Hour’s Run – Very Sharp’.

So, I wrote a paper which I delivered at the recent conference: ‘The Victorian Tactile Imagination’ at Birkbeck College, London (19-20 July, 2013).

The Centre for Ninteenth Century Studies at Birkbeck will also publish a report on the conference in their journal ’19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century’. Here then, is the transcript of my paper. I make no apologies for the blushes that it might induce.

‘A Quarter of an Hour’s Run – Very Sharp': Tactility and Titillation in the ‘Tally Ho Letter’ in the private correspondence of Mary Braddon.

Victorian private worlds can seem especially alluring because the image of the age is sometimes one of protectiveness, coyness, secrecy. Desires are present, but the articulation of those desires varies. The sensation of touch gained or touch denied can often be integral to the expression of those desires. Nowhere is it more private than in the correspondence between couples and what is interesting about this particular letter is how it expresses desire but simultaneously also maintains a controlled and guarded quality. As a poem it follows a set form of imagery and whilst not remarkable as verse (in any way!), it is there to fulfil a function in the relationship between Mary Braddon and her patron John Gilby. So, to Braddon from the pen of Gilby (the first page of the manuscript):

tallyhopage1

From the pen of Gilby to Mary Braddon: the ‘Tally Ho Letter’ page 1

Tallyhotranscript

‘Tally HO’ Letter transcript

Braddon, from the mid-1850s to 1860, toured the Yorkshire theatre circuit and at some point along the way encountered John Gilby. In 1874, Charles Reade wrote a ‘sketch’ of Braddon’s life in one of his Notebooks, wherein he recorded Gilby as a ‘simple-minded Yorkshire squire’ who patronised Braddon in her career transition, from acting to writing. She knew many journalists, playwrights, and other actors of course, and worked to gain introductions to the publishing world. This proved highly successful, but just before she made the breakthrough with her first novels, she engaged in an affair with Gilby.

They were intimate, I think it is safe to say, although he did not want there to be any appearance of impropriety. He saw her as a project. A woman whom he could tame, draw away from her life as an actress, and thanks to her work ethic and impressive intellect, he knew she could make something of herself. His correspondence is peppered with: ‘Nagging, hectoring, demanding instant responses and poems written and revised to order,’ (Robert Lee Wolff, Sensational Victorian: The Life and Fiction of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Garland 1979), 93. This is an evaluation and impression of Gilby’s letters that Robert Lee Wolff, Braddon’s biographer in the 1970s, uncovered.

Gilby wanted Braddon to develop her social standing and commissioned her to work as a poet. He was wealthy and thought he could direct her career, probably with a view to marrying her at a later date once she had become a respectable published author. He was a church-going man (the son of a clergyman), who fully approved of Fanny, Braddon’s mother, accompanying her daughter as chaperone on the theatrical circuit. He established mother and daughter in a residence in Beverley, Yorkshire, in 1860. Braddon named him her ‘Beverley Maecenas’ after the Roman cultural figurehead and patron of the arts under the Emperor Octavian.

Gilby desired Braddon to write Horatian Odes, Spenserian stanza, and asked her: ‘When will you write a Shakespearean play …?’ (Letter, Oct. 13, 1860). Her  main published work from her time under his patronage is her stab at an epic biographical poem ‘Garibaldi’. This episode in her life predates her meeting with John Maxwell, who became her publisher, lover, and finally her husband. 1861 marks the beginning of her career with Maxwell, and her passionate and serious relationship; the start of a triumphant phase of sensation fiction writing. She was happy with Maxwell, where she had been unhappy under the tutelage of Gilby in the year before. She was not happy as a poet, and some of her responses to his passionate scoldings are aloof, or on some occasions she met him with indifference, his letter remaining uncollected from the Post Office.

Gilby’s poem to her is simple enough. It is a rhythmic, pounding, hunting song, written as a private communication. Braddon kept these pages amongst her personal papers for over fifty years, until she died. They have a clear dimension of urgency, suggestiveness, and titillation. This missive certainly meant something to her. He eagerly explores the sensation of hunting and riding down a quarry. This experience, as a means of exercise and mobility for Gilby, was essential. As Wolff discovered from the little evidence that exists of Gilby’s life, ‘both [his] legs were paralyzed’. It is not clear if this was due to accident or illness, but it seems to have affected him since childhood. He remained in Yorkshire, whilst his brother and other relatives left home to attend boarding school and Cambridge. His was a life of restrictions and perhaps some confinement. The sense of touch to his lower limbs could only be imagined for Gilby.

Wolff also discovered that he ‘used a specially constructed saddle with grips in front, which enabled him to ride to hounds and retain his seat while jumping’. Whilst he could not feel the touch of anything on his legs, riding was a full physical experience, an exertion that required different muscle groups and enabled him to enjoy speed and dynamism, as well as risk. It also brought him into close proximity with women for a vigorous social activity. Acting, Braddon’s first profession, and riding were areas in which women could mingle more freely and also come into contact with men of different classes, from grooms to gentry (as Gina Dorré examines in her recent monograph, Victorian Fiction and the Cult of the Horse, Ashgate, 2012). In that work she looks at the the way the sexually charged situations that arose were frequently referred to in coded form. Such an exploration occurs in Braddon’s Aurora Floyd (1863), which she wrote not long after her split with Gilby. In this novel the wayward ‘horsey’ heroine falls for her father’s groom,  horsewhips a servant in a disturbing scene, and finally marries a handsome, young Yorkshire squire, gaining respectablility and happiness. This could be read as an apology of sorts to Gilby, as some Braddon scholars have theorized.

Gilby was a countryman and a sportsman, and it is not speculating too far that as a Victorian gentleman with wealth and social influence, the fact of his paralysis meant he felt he had to try that much more to prove himself. In the boisterous and vigorous world of the ‘Tally-HO’ letter he wanted to be in the lead, as a contrast to the imposition of an otherwise sedentary life. He occupied his time with correspondence and literary patronage, and possibly, in Braddon’s case, the sexual conquest of challenging and clever young women. She was an actress first, in order to pursue regular income for her and her mother, the embodiment of what intrigued the male gaze. Gilby wanted to discipline her towards poetry, the embodiment of the touching nature of female creativity. It would also be a way of confining her to the domestic sphere, keeping her away from the temptations of the stage.

However, his preachiness and insistence upon discipline in the letters partially masks a fuller desire for power and control, coded in the ‘Tally-HO’ letter, and finding an outlet in a story he relates to her in further correspondence:

Mr Brereton has just been in, & has been describing to me how Miss Blythe got introduced to Mr. Macmillan’s family [the publisher, no doubt], then asked to his house, then got him to sell her works amongst his friends, & so on, till she told him her fairy tales & got a permanent engagement! But then she had such a good dear father! He used to have a cane for her special use in his study (besides those for his school) and when she didn’t please him, of course he applied it effectively.’

The crop and the cane, and the activities that employ them throughout school, domestic, and sporting life, and the allure of their use in other contexts caused the blurring of boundaries. It encouraged a totally normalised view of corporal punishment and the use of whip and crop as urge for someone like Gilby. He can articulate his desire and his intentions in these terms. It also moves the sense of touch and imaginative touch into the location of coercion, cruelty, arousal, and control.

The suggestions of whipping appear in private communications from Gilby to Braddon, as poem or anecdote, so not for general consumption, and they are there for her to be in no doubt of his desires and ambitions for her. She is the quarry, her is the huntsman; she is the wayward schoolgirl, he is the schoolmaster who must correct her behaviour for her own good, as the unfortunate Miss Blythe encountered at the hands of her father. Encouragement and correction, emphasized by the use of whipping, was an echo, as Kraft-Ebbing stated in the Psychopathia Sexualia (1886), ‘of the first excitation of the sexual instinct … caused by a spanking.’

As someone who suffered from paralysis from a young age, it is not certain how much direct corporal punishment he would have experienced, but Gilby would certainly have witnessed it directed towards others. Whipping might have been something he felt he had to resort to as well, receiving as well as administering, as he matured because of the fear that he might not be able to perform sexually. Kraft-Ebbing describes cases around this widely held belief, that whipping enabled the debauched, the old, the paralyzed to achieve arousal. Accounts range from the 18th Century onwards of licentious roués and debauchees who needed ‘a severe preparatory beating’ before sex. There was ‘ … a Venetian, who had to be beaten and driven before he could have intercourse, just as reluctant Cupid was driven by his followers with sprays of hyacinths …’

For Braddon, however, this seems to have been something she veered away from. Perhaps the speedy deterioration of her relationship with Gilby has more to do with her disquiet at the articulation of his desire towards her that it had to do with her reluctance to be a poet. Once Braddon took up with Maxwell in London he became the driving force of her professional and personal life and there was no way Gilby could tempt her back to Yorkshire, as he had been unable to discipline her to his will. There might also be more to the depiction of Aurora Floyd’s whipping of her servant than meets the eye. It could be considered an act of revenge in fiction upon Gilby, or a fulfilment of his fantasy if he enjoyed receiving as well as giving.

In Braddon’s revisiting, and revision, of the horsey heroine with Vixen (1879) Braddon might, again, be seen to express her sense of annoyance and discomfort with male control. In the novel, Vixen (Violet Tempest), ‘is neither cunning nor shrewd. Rather, she is like a fox in that after the death of her father, the narrative tension entails the relentless pursuit of Vixen and her property by the dishonorable and licentious fortune hunter, Captain Winstanley.’ (Dorré, 85)

Braddon was characterized by her lover, Gilby, as the fox, if we read his poem as a titillating epistle of coercion and control, vigour and compulsion. She is the ‘Reynard’ he is hunting. She kept the letter, as a reminder perhaps, of the devices and attempts at control and cruelty in her life. She could be represented as the woman who could evade and escape the disciplinary male touch, and not only that but excel and deliver a riposte to that manner of treatment. She repositioned female power in many of her novels and especially reclaimed the control and will after enduring what seems to have been a power-touch relationship with Gilby.

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Blogging Braddon 3: ‘Dear Boss’, how many roads must an archival researcher travel?

Shock revelation from the Braddon Family Archive – Mary Braddon wrote the Ripper letters to Scotland Yard in 1888!  (So there, Patricia Cornwell with your Walter Sickert theory!)

Now that I have your attention, it’s, well …  it’s not explicitly obvious from the evidence, but then that’s kind of the point with most of this sort of archival research isn’t it? There is rarely if ever any kind of direct proof of something like that. The whole supposed ‘case’ of the Jack the Ripper letters is more of a cultural arrangement of different elements, most of which do not have a relationship with the murders themselves. It is this cultural (and linguistic) arrangement that corresponds to the evidence in the Braddon Family Archive.

Just as a side note, neither was Braddon Jack (or Jill) the Ripper; I only mention this because one Ripperologist has asserted recently that the killer was a woman. And another aside, I don’t know about you, but that certainly brings to mind the great 1971 Hammer film Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde (do you see what they did there?) starring the fantastic Ralph Bates.

Anyway, as far as where the Braddon archive might take me, I rule nothing out! That has probably been the major lesson about working on these papers. And I would urge any other potential primary source researchers to bear that status in mind when setting out on the journey. Where the manuscript leads you have to follow.

As I progressed through the collection during the years of my PhD research I felt as though I was working in a very disorganized fashion. I would be making my way through a set of papers and just as I thought I was dealing with one topic I would rapidly have to change tack and pursue a whole new line of investigation. I needed to be ready to take up a brand new area of research with whatever emerged, as I turned over another leaf in one of her notebooks or unwrapped a bundle of drawings. For example, I knew well the published novel A Lost Eden (1904), which holds a great deal of interest for the exploration of Braddon’s theatre career. What it also contains is the underpinning of Samuel Richardson’s plot for Clarissa (1748).

When I recognised the plan for A Lost Eden in one of Braddon’s 1890s notebooks it was clear that there were a series of routes to investigate, including the framework of Richardson’s narrative. So, from the compositional strategy for a late Victorian novel (already strongly coloured by theatrical references) that was published in the Edwardian period but is set across the trajectory of the Crimean War in the 1850s, I was directed to the 18th century epistolary tradition, partly via Jane Eyre, in case I hadn’t already mentioned that! The fabric of invention and composition causes the researcher to have to dog the footsteps of the author’s imagination, taking up the slightest of suggestions that indicate an influence or allusion. Which meant, to cut a long story short (pun very much intended – oh yes!), I had to read Clarissa (sob …)

However, on a lighter note – I mentioned the Ripper letters … have I kept you in suspense long enough? I wasn’t – as I might well have done – setting up a Braddon-style red herring, to draw you in. It is, however, never as cut and dried as it seems.  Here you go: a short manuscript (only 3 pages long) offers the tantalizing title: ‘The Double Event’.

So, the questions arise: foremost – where did she come up with the term? The story outline – very short – does not cover any direct reference to the series of 1888 Whitechapel murders. There is no suggestion as far as the manuscript develops, other than the title, that she was going deal with the case as part of the narrative. Neither is there a date on the manuscript, just a chapter heading ‘He’. However, we are talking an early, slim outline of something that never saw the light of day in that particular form. Speculation, therefore, can run riot – which is part of the fun of writing a blog such as this. Our imaginations, along with that of the author, can be stretched and reach into every dark corner.

To use the phrase ‘The Double Event’ as a title for a story draft seems very telling to me and I am no Ripper expert (I actually really enjoyed From Hell – accents and all!). Does it mean Braddon noticed it from a published version of the Ripper postcards? Was it a widely used term, or did it only emerge in reference to that specific double murder; first appearing in the ‘Saucy Jack’ postcard of October 1st, 1888 and entering into more common usage after that? The ‘double event’ that the writer of the card refers to is thought to be the murders on the night of September 30th of Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride.

The Saucy Jack postcard (1888) from casebook.org ‘The Ripper Letters’

Now, this highlights various possibilities. Perhaps an already extant term entered into popular slang thanks to the publicity surrounding the crimes? Braddon was certainly in the habit of gathering contemporary reportage. She had cuttings and scrap books in her study so that she could keep material of interest at her fingertips.  We know this from the interview with Joseph Hatton in 1887: ‘Miss Braddon At Home’, during which she described the layout of her study and mentioned her ‘commonplace books’ full of such jottings and clippings. I don’t doubt that her interest would have stretched to the tragic and macabre and undoubtedly sensational coverage of the Whitechapel murders in the popular press.

So, in what or by whom was the phrase ‘The Double Event’ coined? Was it first seen on that 1888 postcard – or (once dated accurately) will it turn out that Braddon pre-empted it on her manuscript? Is this evidence of the influence that the murders exerted over her — or, did Mary Braddon write the ‘Saucy Jack’ postcard, and even some of the other Ripper correspondence to Scotland Yard and the newspapers? If, according to Patricia Cornwell, Walter Sickert had a go – why not a Victorian sensation novelist? She certainly had the imagination and better credentials!

According to Professor David Wilson in A History of British Serial Killing (2011), a sketch of the possible personality type of the murderer is as follows: ‘I would suggest that Jack the Ripper was a white man of limited intelligence and education, under the age of forty-five. From the nature of his offences, it seems highly unlikely that he would have been interested in writing letters to the press.’

This seems a sensible enough evaluation, working on what we know of the killer, whose likely background was that of working-class male in Whitechapel, choosing his victims from the community around him. It follows then that the sinister meanderings and really obvious ‘bad’ spelling of the Ripper correspondence came from other – shall we say, more learned – sources: journalists, artists, novelists. One of which could have been Braddon. I think some hand-writing analysis might be in order?

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BLOGGING BRADDON: 2 Just when you think you know stuff, life is still full of surprises …

I have to admit – guiltily – that there were times when I could get slightly blasé about working on the Mary Braddon archive, now housed with the Augustine Library, at Canterbury Christ Church University. It constituted an embarrassment of riches. So much was revealed to me in just the first few days of researching it that after years I could feel almost nonchalant about uncovering yet more amazing finds.

I promised you a glimpse or two and I wouldn’t want to disappoint. Plus, it gives me the chance to send an appeal – to any Rhoda Broughton scholars out there. Take a look at the signature, here: ….

Does it belong to her? There are two complete letters that could be from her – but the hand-writing is especially indecipherable, so that I will have to consult a document expert over the course of the project to work on them. In the meantime it would be useful to know if this is even her writing – to Braddon.

So, yes, with a somewhat workaday attitude I went back to the library recently and spent several hours photographing and assessing the condition of a large quantity of the papers. These are kept in the trunk belonging to Braddon, which was cleared out of her study around the time of her death in 1915. I feel very familiar with the majority of this material; however, as I dug deeper amongst the papers I found some new surprises. I am ashamed of myself. I should never underestimate this collection. This attitude came about as a result of years of describing it to interested (and not so interested) parties (and – literally – sometimes I was doing it AT parties) – and fellow academics who would nod and smile. Genuine excitement at one end of the spectrum has to be contrasted with a ho-hum attitude at the other end – once the listener realised that the work was closed to general access. Oh, the rivalries and competition in our business!

But I wasn’t being deliberately unhelpful – it’s just that the papers were in no real condition or situation for large numbers of people to start scrutinising them. A small portion of material was sent out to the Richmond Museum and Library for their exhibit on Braddon a few years ago, reflecting her years of residence in the town. Those are amongst the more worn and rapidly deteriorating manuscripts now. Not, I hasten to add, anything to do with the museum’s handling of them! No, it was just the mere fact that they have been out in the world and not kept safe, dry, and mildly warm in their metal case. As simple as it was, the system of storage that the family had inherited was amongst the best that could be managed outside of special collection conditions.

However, that will all change soon – and in the meantime the surprises keep on coming. For example, I had never allowed this small scroll to be unwrapped. I took the risk of doing it myself at the library – and it was some butterfly that emerged from the cocoon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More information soon – on the Waterstone’s Book of the Month series set for the Canterbury branch and the forthcoming exhibition in July at the Augustine Library, Christ Church University. And let me take this chance to welcome Alyson Hunt onto the team as Research Assistant – a Wilkie Collins specialist who will no doubt enjoy some of the finds in the collection! Such as this one:

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Blogging Braddon: 1 The transfer of the Braddon archive to Canterbury Christ Church University

Image

A small ink sketch by Mary Braddon (Mary Braddon Archive)

It is a good feeling when something is finally achieved and the metaphorical boil is lanced, so to speak! For many years a huge and weighty cultural responsibility has been bourn by me and my good friend Susanna Avery and the members of her family. Relief has come at last in the form of the International Centre for Victorian Women Writers (ICVWW), based at Canterbury Christ Church University.

I must admit I had some sleepless, fretful nights over this. I knew, and Susanna knew, and a handful of like-minded academics and scholars knew of the significance of the archive of Mary Braddon’s unpublished material. But it has been a long and difficult process to have it universally acknowledged as an important find, partly because Braddon’s reputation is still being steadily revived but mostly because academia moves at the speed of glacial time – inching along at an agonising and frustrating pace.

The day that Susanna told me about her great-great-grandmother who was a ‘Victorian novelist, but no one has ever heard of her’ is now ingrained in my memory. It was a turning point for both of us for many reasons. I discovered the work of Braddon off the back of that comment. I determined that I would investigate her, initially as a rarity in order to create an original slant for my MA dissertation, and afterwards because of the pure enjoyment her novels offer. Into this equation came the added curiosity of the small cache of original Braddon papers that Susanna’s father kept in his desk.

These were handed on to me for my MA research in the mid-1990s, rapidly followed by the substantial legacy Susanna received which has sat in her attic and spare room for the past decade and a half. This archive was the foundation of my PhD research with the University of Kent, under the supervision of Professor Louis James. The finished result is a monograph about and transcripts of a large portion of the papers, focussed on Braddon herself, entitled ‘Papers Found in a Trunk: A Critical Assessment of the Mary Braddon Archive’, completed in 2005.

At this point I must give thanks to the many friends and well-wishers who, on hearing the topic of my thesis and the circumstances of the find, gave me a copy of A.S. Byatt’s novel Possession. It is undoubtedly a great book – but I didn’t read all SEVEN copies! (I know, I know – it was exactly like my situation, sort of…)

So finally, after much preparation and negotiation the archive has been transferred. Life has imitated art, and so on, but at long last the colleagues and the facilities are in place in Susanna’s favoured location in order for the full scale of research to be uncovered. The archive extends to the papers and publications of W.B. Maxwell (Braddon’s son) and Barbara Maxwell. The work of both these family members is a total mystery to me and additional to the main body of papers that belonged to Braddon in her lifetime.

At this point in time, I won’t yet go into a huge amount of detail about the content of Braddon’s papers in the archive. My thesis has a detailed bibliography pertaining to a large proportion of this; items that might figure as landmark finds relating to the broad context of her career. I have discussed some of them in published papers and at different conferences over the years; but now a short moratorium will follow in reference to the public access to the material and further publications.

The principal members of the research team have been gathered and these are: myself as Visiting Research Fellow to the university; Professor Adrienne Gavin and Dr Carolyn Oulton (members of the Christ Church faculty and founders of the ICVWW); and Dr Kate Mattacks of UWE. Between us we will look at the different means by which the archive can be fully investigated. There will be displays and an exhibition, readings at the Canterbury branch of Waterstone’s, a conference, publications and special journal editions, with opportunities for post-graduates in different fields to gain research posts to be involved in the work.

Radio silence will be intermittently broken with regular blog postings here, which will keep the information and progression of research in the public domain. But in the meantime watch the short film for a tantalising glimpse of the treasures waiting to be uncovered.

Posted in Mary Braddon, Nineteenth Century Culture, Popular Culture, Vicorian/Edwardian Literature | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Locating Shakespeare in the Twenty-first Century: a call for chapters

I am very pleased to announce that Dr Kelli R Marshall and I are collaborating on a Shakespeare publication together. This arises from our joint paper for the PCA National conference this year on the NT Lear Live event. The following is the outline of what we are looking for and can be passed on to colleagues and anyone interested.

Call for Papers

Locating Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century (working title)

Editors: Gabrielle Malcolm and Kelli Marshall / Publisher: Cambridge Scholars Publishing

William Shakespeare has long been a global cultural commodity, but in the twenty-first century “Shakespeare” is oft positioned as a social concept with the man almost forgotten amidst the terminology that surrounds the criticism, tourism, adaptation, and utilization of the plays. For instance, the plays themselves are as often re-worked and adapted as performed wholly in their own right on stage. Moreover, there are currently well-established alternative strands, identities, and locations of “Shakespeare” (e.g., metanarratives, gender-reworking, inter-cultural adapting, online streaming), and the growth is as widespread and fast as technology, performance, social networking, and cinema will allow. It is this new and exciting approach to “Shakespeare,” which clearly suits both the adaptation process and the technology and mindset of the twenty-first century, that our volume will consider.

Potential topics for the anthology include the following:

  • Shakespeare depicted on film and TV “outside” the mainstream: reality TV documentary from prison, schools, etc.
  • Adaptation online: podcasts, webcasts, webisodes (e.g., Second City’s Sassy Gay Friend series), YouTube Shakespeare, Shakespeare on Twitter (e.g., Such Tweet Sorrow)
  • Streaming live theatre: the National Theatre Live and not-so-live Hamlet and Lear experiments
  • Meta-narratives of Shakespeare, positioning the works through embedded and presumed knowledge in adaptations
  • Global Shakespeares located within and for national identities
  • Shakespeare as illustrated text: graphic novels, animation, special effects
  • And of course, any other ways of “locating Shakespeare in the twenty-first century”

Please send a 500-word abstract/synopsis of the project to Kelli Marshall  by June 30, 2011. Complete essays of approximately 6,000 words would be expected around September 1, 2011.

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NT Live: King Lear from The Donmar Warehouse, London

Draft paper for PCA conference, San Antonio, Texas, 2011 - in collaboration with Dr Kelli Marshall, University of Toledo, Ohio, USA.

See her updates : http://kellimarshall.net/unmuzzledthoughts/shakespeare/nt-live-notes/#comment-6373

‘Live Theatre as Cinema’

The anticipation was palpable and akin to that felt in a theatre auditorium as people took their seats in the comfortable surroundings of the Little Cinema, Bath. The average age of the audience was post-retirement and seniors. The certification appeared on screen, allocating a 12A rating ‘as live’; which contradicted the information on the ticket that had stated ‘no certificate’. When the live feed began on screen we were drawn in with shots of the audience at the Donmar, an altogether younger crowd. But there were also embellishments for the cinema audience which began very early. It was as if there had to be something extra to mark the event, trailers and features for the remote audience and so we were entertained to a documentary about recent Donmar Warehouse productions, including comments from Jude Law and Gillian Anderson. As interesting as this was, the disadvantage was that we missed the actual first entrance of the actors. The feature abruptly cut to show actors already on stage engaged in the dialogue for the first scene.

So there is no denying that compromises were made. However, the perspective offered to the cinema audience was privileged. The camera position gave front row views from the stalls, and also the feeling of being front row of the upper circle, as well having an almost ‘on-stage’ point of view at times. Proximity to the actors then was everything. There was an extreme, intimate focus in some scenes that offered an intrusive nearness to the live experience. The actors’ every breath was discernible and the physical exertion of the performance was clear. Despite having missed the first entrance of Kent and Gloucester all in all the flow of the performance was unimpeded. They were already into their first exchange when we joined them and this abrupt beginning also signalled some issues with the acoustics. They were slightly harsh and strident in places; and it soon became clear that all of the principals at least wore radio mics. There was some crackling and problems with pitch when some of the actors increased their projection. The ones who came off best were Jacobi, Michael Hadley as Kent and Paul Jesson as Gloucester. Each of these performers, older male actors, with voices in the lower register demonstrated the most suitable tone and adaptation to this cross-over format of live theatre into cinema. It seemed that the problems with the sound levels had been sorted by Edmund’s first soliloquy. At this point the question of the responses in the cinema audience; their participation in the live event, was raised. The Donmar audience laughed at certain points of the speech. The cinema audience chuckled, nervously it seemed, and this was to be the overall tone of the responses throughout. There was a certain deference in the mood of their responses when it came to laughter and later on applause. To clap or not to clap was an issue. The compromise that was reached was a sort of half-hearted ripple amongst some of the audience members that soon dissipated.

The sound was, it turned out, the least of the technical difficulties encountered. The live feed failed after the first scene with Edgar and Gloucester in the second half and just as Jacobi entered for his first ‘mad’ scene. This fifteen/twenty minute interruption was met with a more uninhibited groan from the cinema audience, in an ‘I told you so’ manner (more used as we are to complaining than offering accolades!). Thus far they felt it had been almost too good to be true and the inevitable technical hitch had to happen. However, the actors recommenced with ease. This highlighted the fact that theatre is about ‘liveness’ and tension, with a detectable sense of risk-taking but also the reassurance of the control that the actors have over the material. Commanding performance takes on a new meaning in this context. In terms of framing and the aspect of the camera angles there were times when they seemed quite cautious and other times when they gave an emphasis and a quality to the scene that was unique to this experience. For example, Lear’s confrontation with Goneril after he insults her servant and then curses her was one scene that came across superbly well. The framing when he bore down on her, although keeping his distance, showed the tension in Jacobi’s body. Gina McKee as Goneril was not fully in view, but when she turned after his tirade had finished, she had tears down her cheeks. This was electrifying and an element of a cinematically streamed live performance that I think could not have been repeated in any other context. The ‘Blow winds’ speech began in a stage whisper, which was – I think – a concession on the part of such a skilled, experienced actor as Jacobi, to the sound quality of the acoustic feed. It built to a brilliant crescendo and the ‘unaccommodated man’ speech following was set within an excellent tableau. Also, Kent (who had a great Midlands twang to his accent that suited his language extremely well) when he is placed in the stocks, was filmed using a panning shot that then came in for a close-up as his speech intensified.

One of the things that I was concerned about was how the action towards the play’s climax would be handled. The series of rapid, physical scenes as the warfare escalates, contrast with the quieter, tragic scenes between Lear and Cordelia. The latter scenes need to offer a calm centre to the action wherein the philosophical meaning of the tragedy is concluded, whilst the madness increases and builds around them. The configuration of the shots and framing did not cause this element to slide, fortunately, and there were genuine tears shed around me at Lear’s recognition of Cordelia and at his entrance with her lifeless body. Although, the camera is still ruthless and unforgiving, and in Pippa Bennet-Warner’s case, as Cordelia, and Jacobi as the dead Lear slumped next to her – we could still detect (very laboured) breathing! It brought home just what an exertion such performance is and the stamina and vigour needed to carry it out, let alone to have to repeat scenes due to a failed satellite link.

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