May 13th, 2012

Harriet Vane

Mother's Morning Song

Dear friends and readers,

By Sylvia Plath:

“Morning Song” by Sylvia Plath

Love set you going like a fat gold watch.
The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry
Took its place among the elements.

Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival. New statue.
In a drafty museum, your nakedness
Shadows our safety. We stand round blankly as walls.

I'm no more your mother
Than the cloud that distills a mirror to reflect its own slow
Effacement at the wind's hand.

All night your moth-breath
Flickers among the flat pink roses. I wake to listen:
A far sea moves in my ear.

One cry, and I stumble from bed, cow-heavy and floral
In my Victorian nightgown.
Your mouth opens clean as a cat's. The window square

Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.

In honor of our shared name,

Mary Cassatt, Margot before a Window

Harriet Vane

The problem of what to do next?

Dear friends and readers,

In the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Mrs Donnelly (Maggie Smith) tells her servant girl that the problem of her existence once she was retired had become, "What to do next."  This is my problem too. How to organize my time or existence might be another way of putting it. What should I do with the existence I've got left. Turning away from teaching is not my first heart-break over my teaching I assure any reader of this blog. It's just another blow.

Second, I like to post to listservs in the morning and write letters to friends, to have what I can of a social life on the Net. Right now on one list a tiny group of people have agreed to read Trollope's Kellys & OKellys and after that George Moore's Esther Waters and A Storyteller's Holiday (Alfred Nobbs). That's it. Not too much. I don't belong to any local book clubs. I've never been able to join one.  I don't give Trollope up altogether this way. I don't feel this aloneness so much. I cheer up.

So what to do with my hours, my life in a sense. First, I have trouble doing any work at night. At night I do enjoy doing blogs. And these come out of what I do on listservs and readings I do myself. Here I can enjoy myself over Gaskell and Oliphant, costume drama film adaptations and poetry and other loves. These help get me through the night. I don't go to sleep so early when I manage to do them so I can sleep my 5 hours in a row. They occupy the time. Absorb my mind so nothing else gets in.

This leaves say 8 hours a day (give or take -- there's eating, morning tasks, sometimes shopping) when I don't go out with the Admiral or Yvette; or (less regularly) visitings, shoppings with Caroline, or some other function, like once or twice a year say (conference) or rare meeting with a friend in this area. Holiday? travel. Even less often.

Looking at it I have three projects that are large:

The Trollope film paper on the Pallisers and other films, turns out to have needed a lot of work, or at least some. But when I finally got myself to read the Victorian literature and film adaptation volume, I discovered that after all more of my paper was kept than I had been told would. It seems to be some version of my longer good paper. (This reminds me of when I was asked to review a book in Italian on Italian women epistolary and life-writers and produced a good review; the man suddenly insulted me and said it was enormously too long and he didn't want it. I first wrote a shorter version but that would not do either. I then discovered he wanted his graduate student to write the review. Months later I saw a shorter verions of the first good paper had been published!)  So I'm not sure what there is to do.

Since it's apparent to me no one wants my papers at Victorian conferences or for their periodicals, I would have to try Literature/Film quarterlies. That's a limited kind of thing but I could try just that. If I failed to be accepted, I could just put the thing on the Net and that would be that. Come to think of it there are some journals still not limited to periods and my paper might find a place among these. 

Anway what sits before me are my two versions and a third (re-framed by someone else) published.

A Place of Refuge: The Sense and Sensibility Films are also a lot of work. There might be some interest in a Jane Austen film book but I know I have a strong tendency to write very academically and in a welter of detail that I'm told no publisher wants. At least not from me. I did come up with a thesis at last for a whole book. This by my close reading of half Austen's letters. I've 5 chapters: intro on Austen's S&S and Montolieu's Caroline de Lichtfield and a chapter each on 71, 83, 95, and 08 S&S and 00 I Have Found it.

In both cases I have previously material to begin with and revise - the Jane Austen very good some of it. And I have a thesis for the whole book for A Place of Refuge. I should not cast all this aside the way I did Jane Austen among Frenchwoman. for another different project which would be:

The Important Tuesday. I tell myself this would be short and easy, but as I immediately see I need to finish Austen's letters and re-read the novels, it becomes apparently it's a big project too.  One I would like to do before I die. Because the pattern is there. I know it is. What it means I know not. Even quite when she did it. The Unknown Austen. I have to read more of her more immediate relatives' documents and lives.

Now I have no special in at all among Austen studies or journals but it's an 18th century topic, a woman's studies topic, a fiction topic.

Now a larger profound question for me is, Do I want to write for publication? it's such a hard work, for what and the people I have to deal with much of the time mysteries to me -- and I have such difficulties coming up with theses and arguments for my own work. Tell a story fine.  Write a review of someone else's argument, fine. (I've half agreed for next year to write a review of Staves's Literary History of Women, 1689-1790). I enjoy them in the way I do blogs; indeed many of my blogs come out of the work I do for reviews.

Partly it's the mandarin style; partly my lack of self-esteem which makes me do too much, want to cover too much. I have no trouble making blogs :).  Clearly from my experience with the recent editors of this Victorian film volume and other ones I am out of my depth when it comes to this upper middle class academic world. I don't respond to their methods of "pushing" -- because I am so started and hurt at sudden turn-rounds of bullying.  I now have had several experiences where I just didn't know how to cope with these editors of peer-edited academic style journals.

Yvette said the other day to me something that echoed a sentiment I feel in my gut anyway: if she had had to think about publication when she wrote her novels, she would not have done it.  When I was pushed in a way to try to publish my translated poems (Colonna and Gambara) I remember thinking over and over if I had thought it was necessary to publish these while writing them, I never would have. I didn't do it for that.

Were I intent on publication I would not give up my Trollope illustrations project on which I've a lot of stuff more than I've put on my website.

At some level I don't care. If I didn't I'd have behaved very differently over the years.  I don't think life has any meaning and it's vanitas vanitatem about publication,silly. That lots of people are silly is of course the obstacle. I get respect from some for my Trollope book.

Maybe the publication on my website and blogs are the way to go in part. It's just that if I want something paid attention to it has to be in a conventionally respected place.  So I must do the Tuesday paper. Of the meditated projects that's the one to get into a peer edited journal if I can.  Not Persuasions.  It's too Janeite, they want for most people too short papers. Some older venerable journal. Try it and if it's not put it on the Net and dismiss it from my mind. I like this sub-plan.


I do want to work on my website;

A region for the foremother poet blogs in one place.

A region for the Poldark blogs in one place.

I have to set aside time for this. This I'm clear on.


My proposal for my paper for the coming EC/ASECS conference is (I hope) one of those things I can do a small thing on for a couple of months starting in later August/early September. I need to put that document on my website:'Infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me!': paranoia in the writings of Charlotte Smith, Anne Radcliffe, Mary Brunton, and Sophie Cottin

Personally-rooted new desires and old:

In my mind is a desire to write something on the Poldark novels. Since they are in copyright I have to be careful. I don't know if I am capable of a sequel. I know there is no handbook but here again I'm up against the same problem I had for the Colonna and Gambara, knowing no one.  This time it's true there is a website and address to write to.  This would not necessarily be writing for conventional publication but something to put on the web. Elizabeth's Story.  A handbook :)

A desire to return to Italian. To do the proposal for EC/ASECS would get me again readnig French novels. I did that last summer for the Mary Trouille review.  I want to read Elsa Morante's Menzogna and Sortilegio. I hunger to read more women's novels about the central aspect of women's existence:  female sexuality as it's treated in human societies.

Now if I make a plan, I must follow it.