Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

 Dear friends and readers,

If you want to skip this blog or know what's in it in a nugget before proceeding:  I write blogs to cheer myself up.  To explain:

Over on Trollope19thCStudies, there's been very little response to my postings for weeks.  Although I was enjoying an agreed-upon book, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables, in a  mild way, since it was not in my direct interests and I had other books I preferred to read and the book began to be predictable and I began to post less and less (half-embarrassed) and at greater intervals, I gave it up and mentioned this on list. Also that I asked a simple (not tendentious particularly) question about a movie and book I know many on the list have seen or read (Trollope's He Knew He Was Right, Davies's film adaptation of it), and got not one reply.  

This drew (a few days later) one comment from one man who seems to be reading the book from an online text, and another woman who said she was planning to read two books with me in May, only it seemed she had wrong the plan for which (put on the panel on the side and in several places and repeated each week by me on Friday). She did say she didn't know "how you do it all."

A spring picture by John Atkinson Grimshaw, later Victorian Leeds-Yorkshire painter, from the album files of this Trollope listserv

On a friend's blog, she reported her husband remarked he thought blogging a waste of time.  Her blog is filled with a wide variety of informative and insightful comments on the many books she reads and occasional pleasant adventures she has finding books, going bike-riding, on line and now teaching as well as buying books. She doesn't put her cat's photos up -- I do and here today is my increasingly beloved Clary:

This spring morning, standing in a patch of sunlight.

So I felt an impulse to explain, to make a blog about why I blog and post to listservs, if only to explain to myself and justify this way of spending hours of my life over each week.  Also because I feel bad about myself (a failure insofar as any career goes, no interest in housework, cooking, or motherhood either or any of these traditional occupations) and so blogging about what I am helps me feel real and better.

This woman on the Trollope list said she doesn't know how I do it.  Well I don't work full time, don't do housework or have young children, and Jim and I socialize only rarely (I mean rarely) beyond ourselves.  And then I really think I don't do as much highfaultin reading as many others who are scholars; they go to libraries too a lot (rare book rooms).  One person whose knowledge floors me is Patrick Leary. Those on Victoria surely know he's a walking treasure trove not only of older studies but many new ones and he keeps up. He seems also rich in so many primary sources, and he knows what's happening on the Net too. He is not rare.  On several academic listservs I'm on I come across people who spend much of their time similarly reading in depth, most of them teaching for a living at universities or secondary schools, but some independent scholars and some devoted readers. Some of these write papers for publication, go to conferences more than Leary seems to and they try for publication of books; they some of them have comfortable ranks in the academy (good secure jobs) and that seems to justify them to the public world, but they don't have to carry on once they get tenure, and these people do. (Many tenured people do stop, and some tenure is based on local politics where you teach and include heavy teaching schedules and classes which take a lot of work -- reading their papers or with them.)  Quite a number of idealists of both types (independent scholars and scholars who keep at work) are on the NASSR-l, romantics list, a time and era whose major figures were distinguished for decent liberalism and enlightenments (romanticism).

I have a small adjunct job:  since my daughter finished her MLIS I've gone down to 2 sections a term and have stopped teaching summers.  Where I teach I never get new or advanced literature courses so I have nothing new to prepare and no students hard to keep up with. My salary is derisory, my security and benefits non-existent. And through snubbing and stigmatizing the full-time faculty (non-tenured too) make me as invisible as they can.  And I make no money publishing even if I've had a book now and articles.  The articles are in academic style journals or online and they dont' bring me promotion or better courses.  


Frances Burney by Edward Francesco Burney (c. 1784-85)  -- under whose aegis I wrote my first three blogs (see below).

So why do I do it?  I have enough income to live and buy books even if not independently wealthy like Leary. (I wish I were, and then I would not worry for my daughter.)  But I cannot make myself that way. I cannot write books that would make a lot of money, partly I can't hack them, or wouldn't be able to if I produced the texts. I knew when I wrote my books of poetry and scholarship I'd never be able to get anyone to publish them unless some special interest unexpected by me intervened.  (That's what happened with Trollope on the Net: I met a good man, John Letts, and he needed a book for his society and was promoting common readers reading Trollope. I fit his economic interest .)

I'm not content just to read and go to conferences and never express myself.  I have a genuine desire to reach people with ideas or thoughts about books and art.  And to hear from others who care about such things seriously.  For me who have no connections to publish and don't write in a way that's commercially wanted, it's an outlet. I genuinely enjoy writing out my thoughts about books and like to reach others who feel and think the way I do.  I enjoy teaching for something of the same reasons only there I don't usually get to reach anyone who is genuinely interested in precisely what I am: occasionally I come across students really inspired or loving to read good books who find few people to share their joy and interest with (most are not going on to any profession where they will be able to fulfill this aspect of themselves).

I enjoy writing things I think well of and putting them online and prettying them up and when a few people come and read this gives me gratification.  It's enough.

I get to see what I thought, I put what I write over say a number of weeks on a book altogether, and having slept after writing my blog and rereading it, come to some understanding of the book or myself or its author.

Here it is more impersonal than a listserv and I might reach more people (through google or bookmarking).  So I I fuss and fix what I write much more.  I can answer back.  If I see stupidity, if I see cruelty, if I see intense corruption such that I want to make it visible (even if I can't make it ashamed), if I see things not understood or misunderstood, when I experience the bad exploitation of our society which I know other powerless and vulnerable do, I can speak out.  I do this less than i used to as I tire :).  But I still do it if less autobiographically and more indirectly.  When I've gone to a conference like the Trollope one several years ago and find what I did ignored, and made invisible and the book that was produced pretty bad, I can say so here. Freedom of the press belong to the woman who owns one. And maybe I'm useful in writing about movies I've seen and recommending them by explaining their value. I have lots of knowledge of texts others like me might like to know about and read too. That's why I did my foremother poet postings for years.

There is also a great delight for me in writing out my thoughts and discovering what I think, pleasure in imagining others are at least curious and a few read, and pleasure in looking back and remembering. I love to read others in the same vein too -- I know this vein is not common, but when it exists such people write and the loving impulse involved is one I enjoy deeply. 

The way to make the past remembered and lived more fully by being understood and elaborated out is to write it down and that makes it more available to us. it's an aid to memory. I can look back and see what I thought. I can use it in my new thoughts -- new writing for reviews and on line.  My life itself becomes more real.   I can work out sources of emotional pain and help myself endure them.  I admit I don't do this as much -- though maybe this blog is part of that.

True, no money, no outside reward beyond the doing of it. So what? what people are rewarded for in this world is often awful. Henry James has characters who are proud to be perfectly equipped failures :)  He says that many who have worldly success do so out of an ability to be aggressive and compete and shut others out, to be corrupt, to exploit, to do bad things, to write and make trash for the mass of people who want this; thus it is no shame not to be a success on these terms. (Of course you can be lucky and be born to where you can be fulfilled in a worldly way to a certain extent without this meanness but if you are not, so beit, then you contribute by reading and being you, standing up to uphold and support the good quietly.)  On those who say unless you get money or recognition, it's no good, my answer is:  then you are choosing death because you will not compromise on what's on offer. I don't want to be silent (dead) and without contacts because I  cannot have these on terms which bring money and prestige.

The Net is here and as long as it remains available to someone like me, it's foolish to disdain it.  Cutting off your nose to spite your face as they say.  Fanny Burney did not know her 40 years of writing would get in print, but she carried on. She was my model for my first blog and remains my model still.

Jim who is a kind  of saint when it comes to ambition, to be out there on some level as your recognized self, says when he dies, he wants no memory whatsoever of him to remain. to go in the ether as if he's never been.  He thinks powerless people only lose from publicity anyway.  He forgets how some love admiration, no matter how shallow or fleeting.  Of course I also write to assuage the loneliness I feel living in Virginia, and to fend off depression, but this is how I do it, really, and in my view those not saddened deeply by life have some explaining to do, not me.


So here are a few of the reasons I blog and post to listservs.  Shall I call this seasonal?  It's spring break this week, my friends, and (any) readers. 

Izzy beloved daughter this morning, also someone who blogs, posts, writes to the Net -- you see her window flooded with white light and a little of her pretty view



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)
Who is Sylvia Drake?
From Linda on WWTTA:


I enjoyed your latest blog (and I always enjoy your blogs), It's a pity that your gifts don't bring you more monetary rewards.

My question is this: who is Miss Sylvia Drake, whose picture always appears on your blog? Is it a pseudonym--or a character in literature--or what?

Mar. 8th, 2010 03:12 pm (UTC)

"Nice blog, Ellen."
Mar. 8th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC)
On Leary, from Trollope19thCStudies, Bob forwarded this on Leary:

Patrick Leary received his Ph. D. in History from Indiana University in 2002 and is currently a Visiting Scholar with the History Department of Northwestern University and Curator of the Wilmette Historical Museum. He has published widely on the Victorian literary marketplace, including articles about Fraser's Magazine, Notes & Queries, and John Stuart Mill. He has also written about the impact of electronic technology on the study of the nineteenth century, and an essay on that topic appears in The Victorians since 1901: Histories, Representations and Revisions (2004). He manages the VICTORIA discussion list, begun by him in 1993, and maintains the Victoria Research Web, which he created in 1996 to provide research resources for Victorianists. In 1991 he co-founded the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) and continues to manage its list and website and to serve on its board; he also serves as an officer of the Midwest Victorian Studies Association and the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals. He is completing a book about the Punch circle, and researching a projected study of the cultural geography of London authorship and publishing at mid-century.


His book has come out: The Brotherhood of Punch. Deep in the recesses of the British Library sits a long oval dining table of plain deal, its battered surface scored with initials carved around the edge. This unprepossessing piece of furniture was once the most famous table in London: the Punch table where the staff of one of history's most successful and influential humor and satire magazines gathered every week for dinner, brandy, and cigars in order to plan their weekly issue's tradition that lasted for nearly 150 years. Founded by Henry Mayhew and Mark Lemon in 1841, Punch coined the use of cartoon to designate a comic drawing and featured some of the best-known cartoonists of the age, including John Tenniel, E. H. Shepard, Fougasse (Cyril Kenneth Bird), and Oliver Pont, as well as some of the Victorian era's most celebrated writers.


Edited at 2010-03-08 03:40 pm (UTC)
Mar. 8th, 2010 03:39 pm (UTC)
Not surprised
I'm not surprised by Leary's choice of topic. When in the 19th century males succeeded in keeping women out of public spaces, they of course were keeping these spaces for males only. Leary talks about this wonderful table the British Library. In her _Room of One's Own_, Virginia Woolf talks about how it feels to be a woman not only kept out of most librarians, but even urged to get off the grass.

That's why this is Reveries under the Sign of Austen with an epigraph by Dickinson.

Mar. 8th, 2010 03:53 pm (UTC)
Sylvia Drake and Fanny Burney
Sylvia Drake is a minor character who turns up early in Sayer's Gaudy Night. I have a theory about her which links her to a woman (unnamed or given a slightly different name at the end of the book): I think Sayers meant them to be the same woman; at any rate the same type:

Here's the blog where I explain it:


What I have not talked about on Reveries is that my first two failed attempts at blogging (I didn't keep it up) and the third blog which was attacked by a virus where all written under the aegis of Fanny Burney. I failed to rescue the early blog where I explained why. I used to address Fanny and call myself "nobody," but it was a bit of strain and felt coy so I stopped.

I began by quoting the opening of Burney's diary:

""To whom, then must I dedicate my wonderful, surprising and interesting adventures? - to whom dare I reveal my private opinion of my nearest Relations? the secret thoughts of my dearest friends? my own hopes, fears, reflections, and dislikes? - Nobody!
To Nobody, then, will I write my Journal! since To Nobody can I be wholly unreserved - to Nobody can I reveal every thought, every wish of my Heart, with the most unlimited confidence, the most unremitting sincerity to the end of my Life!" (Burney, Frances. 27 March 1768, entry 1 of _Journals and Letters_, ed. Peter Sabor and Lars E. Troide (London: Penguin, 2001)

I've just written about her again on Janeites (as Linda will know and all those on Janeites: her agon at court).

On ECW we've read Evelina, Cecilia, and an abridged edition (Penguin of the diaries).

I "go way back with Burney" and in the Burney letter the editor once published my meditation on this:

On first encountering Fanny Burney:


I also made a big page for Burney, with postings from readings and bibliography and got into a very pleasant exchange of email with Clare Harman (whose book I recommended).

The emblem picture is Catherine Walker as Eleanor Tilney. Eleanor Tilney is another of Austen's heroines I'm very drawn to (also Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, Jane Bennet, Jane Fairfax, Fanny Price, Anne Elliot, Mrs Smith), and I just loved the way Walker played her. Perfect for me,

To conclude, I got myself a copy of Jane's Fame and hope to read it soon and post about it here, Janeties, Austen-l and ECW too.


Edited at 2010-03-08 03:59 pm (UTC)
Mar. 8th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
Dear Ellen,

I agree with you that blogs are valuable. My husband doesn't read book blogs, but is hooked on sports blogs, so that goes to show you! And he is always happy when I find a blog about French literature, though he doesn't seek these himself because he somehow thinks blogs are less authoritative. It comes from not reading them.

Your gracefully-written blog is a record of who you are, what you do, your work, and cultural events you attend. I certainly have gotten a lot out of it. Without your blogs and list-servs, would I have read the less well-known Trollopes, or reread all of Jane Austen (except for Northanger Abbey, which I can't get through)? I doubt it. Sense and Sensibility would never have come my way a second time, and that would have been a shame.

My blog is a journal more than I really thought it was. I try to write about books while I am reading them, instead of reviewing them at the end, so I capture my impressions; but am also writing about little things I do. I'm surprised to find that last MarchI was taking trips to out-of-town libraries and my hometown, which had been flooded in 2008, and is now fenced off by the river, buildings ruined, cranes and machinery everywhere. I would not normally have written about this, because I don't keep a journal, but the notes are there.

I wish I could find more blogs that haven't made it into the mainstream. The same book blogs appear on blogrools again, again, and again. Perhaps that isn't true on yours, though. You know the academic blogs, and I do not.

I hear much about Facebook and Twitter now and do not use these sites. Perhaps they're replacing blogs: I don't understand the point of these.


There are so many reasons to read blogs: yours provides
Mar. 9th, 2010 08:05 am (UTC)
Patrick Leary
I'd like to thank Bob for posting the information about Patrick Leary. I've "known" him through Victoria for years, but never knew anything about him, and have always been curious. Googling, I did find that he had his Ph.D from Indiana and had written the Punch book, but the bio Bob sent is much more satisfactory and complete. Your suppositious portrait of him as an independently wealthy leisured gentleman scholar was appealing, but not very likely!
Mar. 9th, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
He may not fit the old-fashioned use of the term gentleman, but a man who need not work directly for a living (unless a curator is a well-paid position) and spends his time as Leary does is a gentleman in our culture. "Independent scholar" suggests the curating job is not the way he makes a living but a subordinate position which gives him access to scholarship and connections in the museum. The same goes for his position on the board. It does suggest he's an able academic politician.

Mar. 9th, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
Blogs and life on the Net
Thank you, Kathy, first for recognizing what I was centrally saying. I am grateful to you for saying what I offer as a gift I love to give.

I used Leary as an instance of a man who dedicates his life to scholarship, and the focus on making sure he gets his ranks, published texts cited, and money insisted on seems to me tactless and grating since those who answered did not also go on to respond to the content I have here. It's as if they are denying my major idea for myself: it matters what you get in the world more than anything else. So he becomes a cynosure for what I'm excluded from.

I don't know what facebook and twitter are about. I'm told celebrities advertise themselves on facebook. It seems to me an impersonal place where little true human contact is found on the board. I have therefore no desire to navigate or join it: it's another instance of the hollow performative life in public we see everywhere.

Twitter seems to be a form of company where tiny messages are put by famous people to create excitement for an event going on in the public media at the time they twitter. Anyone can twitter so you have the excitement of appearing to get into contact with such people. It reminds me of TV: only now the TV personalities are talking back. The lack of space to say something which can be explained shows the level of the talk. If you are watching a TV show (sports say, the interactive type of semi-stars in a contest) and then look at Twitter and see responses to it or to something else you get a feeling of being involved and surrounded by an imagined community. That's the charm; it is analogous to TV people talking at viewers as if they can see the viewer. I've no idea how to register nor do I have any desire to. Again it's a way of advertising yourself if you are there to do that.

Like your husband, Jim reads blogs of interest to him. I like to read blogs by my friends and keep in touch that way the way I do listserv communities.


Edited at 2010-03-09 09:30 pm (UTC)
Mar. 17th, 2010 09:22 pm (UTC)
thank you
Ellen, I am very glad you blog, I have watched a number of films based on your recommendations which I wouldn't have otherwise, and find your enthusiasm very energising. Keep at it!!!
Mar. 22nd, 2010 01:31 am (UTC)
Why we write to lists
Diane R from WWTTA wrote:

This was in the New York Times:

"It may sound counterintuitive, but people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to be happier, said Matthias Mehl, a psychologist at the University of Arizona who published a study on the subject.

“We found this so interesting, because it could have gone the other
way — it could have been, ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ — as long as you
surf on the shallow level of life you’re happy, and if you go into the existential depths you’ll be unhappy,” Dr. Mehl said.

But, he proposed, substantive conversation seemed to hold the key to happiness for two main reasons: both because human beings are driven to find and create meaning in their lives, and because we are social animals who want and need to connect with other people."

As I have said to people on the list--and they to me--thinking and
talking about Jane Austen's novels makes us so very happy.

Mar. 22nd, 2010 01:32 am (UTC)
Why we write to lists
From Linda:

I think what we are talking about is not as important as the fact that we are talking.

Mar. 22nd, 2010 01:32 am (UTC)
Why we write to lists
Thank you, Diane, for responding to the blog, and Linda for responding again. I agree with Linda that it is not that important what we say (though not altogether unimportant, as flame wars, snide remarks, &c are awful) so much as talking itself on the listserv to one nother.

I don't find it counterintuitive that "people who spend more of their day having deep discussions and less time engaging in small talk seem to
be happier" and suggest the psychiatrist said that to placate less perceptive people who want shallow conversations are perhaps in the majority. They are no fact not seeking any deep engagement, might be avoiding it.

The substantive conversation described is facilitated by being in our writing selves mode. Face-to-face we probably could rarely develop any thought at length, and only at inspired propitious moments rise to hit what is meaningful.

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

Latest Month

October 2019


Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow