At Stanford, September 19: Jack London: Apostle of the American West

Jack London: Apostle of the American West

Centennial Celebration, Symposium, and Exhibition at Stanford
TIME AND DATE

Monday, September 19, 2016

4:15 – 6:45 pm

Note: This event is currently at capacity. Registered attendees will be admitted up to capacity on a first-come, first-served basis. A recorded broadcast by C-SPAN will be made available to after the event for those who are unable to attend.

http://west.stanford.edu/events/jack-london-apostle-american-west

Participants

Jeanne C. Reesman, University of Texas at San Antonio, Professor of English

Sara (Sue) Hodson, Huntington Library, Curator of the Jack London Papers
·   Both Reesman and Hodson will be presenting on Jack London and his photojournalism.

Donna M. Campbell, Washington State University, Professor of English
·   Campbell will be presenting on Jack London’s literary influences on the American imagination and his relationship to other western fiction writers.

Peter Blodgett, Huntington Library, Chief Curator of Western Manuscripts
·   Blodgett will be presenting on the history of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in California and the historical and cultural events that shaped Jack London’s literary themes and lifestyle.

Moderated by Professor Bruce Cain, Spence and Cleone Eccles Family Director Bill Lane Center for the American West

With fellow panelists Jeanne Campbell Reesman (UTSA), Peter Blodgett (Huntington Library), and Sara S.Hodson (Huntington Library), I spoke last night at the inaugural event of The Bill Lane Center for the American West at Stanford University. A great audience turned out for the talks, which will be broadcast on C-SPAN in October. Our thanks go out to the Bill Lane Center for the American West, Marc Levin, Bruce E. Cain, and Preeti Hehmeyer for this wonderful experience.

Interview on Jack London from jacklondons.net

A longtime and valuable site for Jack London studies, Dave Hartzell’s jacklondons.net, is giving a “not found” message, so it may be down permanently.

You can find its archives at the Wayback Machine, and if you’re interested in any of the content, you may want to look at it while you still can: https://web.archive.org/web/20160310175855/http://www.jacklondons.net/

I did an email interview with Dave Hartzell for the site in 2010, and, since I don’t have another copy of it, I’m reposting it here.

Please trace the origin of your interest in Jack London.

Donna Campbell

My interest in Jack London began as part of a more general interest in turn-of-the-century American culture. After reading naturalist authors such as Frank Norris, Theodore Dreiser, and Stephen Crane, I read Martin Eden and The Sea-Wolf and was struck by the ways in which those novels, though prompted by very different experiences, reflected the themes of their works. From his letters and other writings it’s clear how much London, like the others, admired Spencer and Darwin, but there’s an intensity about the ways that London depicts class and gender issues that makes reading his work really compelling.

Later on, I read the California novels (Valley of the Moon, Burning Daylight, and The Little Lady of the Big House) and was struck by how hard he worked to create—and to educate his readers about—an agrarian alternative to what was already becoming a high-stress, industrialized way of life. The contrast between those idyllic California romances about living on the land and the reality of daily writing that London had to complete to keep his ranch going is striking. One of the things London does best is to think about what’s lost and what’s gained when people—as individuals and as societies—rush to be “modern.”

In higher education American literature studies, does London have a high “standing”?
Not exactly, although the situation is improving thanks to good scholarship from a multitude of perspectives, including work by Jeanne Campbell Reesman, Earle Labor, Earl Wilcox, Susan Nuernberg, Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin, Lee Clark Mitchell, Donald Pease, Jonathan Auerbach, the essayists in Reesman and Cassuto’s Rereading Jack London and in Reesman and Hodson’s Jack London: One Hundred Years a Writer, and the authors of recent essays about him in American Literature and other journals. For someone who lacks the high standing in the academy of a William Faulkner or a Toni Morrison, London inspires a surprising amount of critical prose. New approaches to his work and his politics, including interest in London’s journalism, his South Seas tales, and his socialist stories, should help his critical reputation.
In teaching London’s works, what do you emphasize and hope your students understand?
When teaching London to undergraduates, I talk about London as a bridge between the nineteenth and the twentieth century. We talk about naturalism, of course, but we also discuss style. London’s style sometimes veers into the sentimental rhetoric of the nineteenth century, but when reading his crisp and sometimes pitiless descriptions (in “To Build a Fire,” for example) and his handling of sentences, it’s hard to imagine a writer like Ernest Hemingway if London hadn’t come before. In reading passages closely with my students, I also try to point out the highly conscious ways in which he uses syntax, word choice, and point of view; this helps to dispel impression students have that all London did was to dash off experiences and ship them off to magazines. In graduate classes, we discuss London in light of work we’ve been reading the ways in which cultures construct race, class, and gender. We also discuss some of the “untapped areas” (below).
Aside from the “He was a writer of dog stories” canard what are some of the misunderstandings about London and his works?”
That’s the most common misapprehension about London; another is that he wrote only juvenile fiction. Although many writers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century wrote for children as well as for adults, there’s been a division between “children’s literature” and “literature written for adults.” Recent attempts to break down that barrier might help a reconsideration of some of London’s work.

Also, as critics have said, London’s a better writer of short stories than of novels.

Jack London’s real-life world, from the turn of the century to the First World War, seems “dated” to young readers who know nothing of the Klondike or socialism. What is there in his work to appeal to a new generation of readers?
I’m guessing that young readers would be interested in the same features that young readers have always liked about London’s prose: vivid descriptions, fresh prose, exotic locations, and lots and lots of adventure (with a little violence for good measure). Can readers still read “To the Man on Trail” or “To Build a Fire” and shiver with the cold that he describes, even if they don’t know London’s views on race or socialism? I think they can.
Are there untapped areas of London scholarship? Please give some examples of research that needs to be done.
Jeanne Campbell Reesman and Sara S. Hodson would have much more to say about this than I do, but here are some possibilities. Some have already been the subject of articles and books, in fact:
  • Sustainable agriculture, agricultural experimentation, and so on in the California novels.
  • Discussions about masculinity, race, body culture, and food culture in the Progressive Era
  • London and celebrity culture
  • London and other writers, especially women writers
  • London and race
  • London’s speculative and science fiction writings
  • Travel, empire, tourism, and London’s South Seas writing
What are your own current areas of London research?
I’ve published on London and gender in Martin Eden, on London and landscape in The Valley of the Moon, and on London and Edith Wharton in The Little Lady of the Big House; in addition, I have work in progress for the Blackwell Companion to the Modern American Novel, for the proposed MLA book Approaches to Teaching Jack London, and for an essay on Rose Wilder Lane as London’s first biographer.
[Update: You can find a number of these completed projects online if you go to the WSU Research Repository link on the sidebar.]

Bitter Tastes is now available

My book Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing is now available from the University of Georgia Press.

You’ve already seen the list of women writers it covers, so here’s the Table of Contents.

Introduction

Chapter 1

Grim Realism and the Culture of Feeling: Rebecca Harding Davis, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Lillie Chace Wyman

Chapter 2

The Darwinists: Borderlands, Evolution, and Trauma

Chapter 3

Bohemian Time: Glasgow, Austin, and Cather

Chapter 4

Red Kimonos and White Slavery: The Fallen Woman in Film and print

Chapter 5

Where Are My Children? Race, Citizenship, and the Stolen Child

Chapter 6

“Manure Widows” and Middlebrow Fiction: Rural Naturalism in the 1920s

Chapter 7

Waste, Hoarding, and Secrets: Modernist Naturalism and the Servant’s Body

 

At the press site: http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/books/index/bitter_tastes

At Indiebound: http://www.indiebound.org/search/book?searchfor=bitter+tastes

At Powell’s: http://www.powells.com/book/bitter-tastes-9780820341729/61-0

At Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/082034172X/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Alexander Hamilton, Gertrude Atherton, and John O’Hara Cosgrove

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 11.42.20 AMI’ve recently been reading through some letters from John O’Hara Cosgrove (link) , the editor of Everybody’s Magazine, to Owen Wister, the author of The Virginian (1902). My principal interest is Cosgrove’s connection with Frank Norris, who had worked at The Wave when Cosgrove was its editor, and his thoughts on Jack London, but this excerpt gives a good sense of what editors–or at least this editor–was thinking might sell in 1902.

In 1902, the California novelist Gertrude Atherton (today best known for her novel Black Oxen, 1922) published The Conqueror: Being the True and Romantic Story of Alexander Hamilton (New York: Macmillan and Company, 1902). By the time she republished it in 1916, the book had acquired a slightly less sensational title: The Conqueror: A Dramatized Biography of Alexander Hamilton (New York: Frederick A. Stokes Company, 1916).

Responding to the book, Cosgrove pitched Wister, as he often did, about participating in a series of articles “treating real men as though they were characters in fiction”:

I have just been reading Mrs. Atherton’s book on Alexander Hamilton. The form, which is really a departure, gave me a very clear impression of the subject’s individuality.  It represented a form of treatment that I have often urged using and treating real men as though they were characters in fiction.  I mean using the fiction method to project the personality of the individual.  This seems to have been done very well by Mrs. Atherton, and if we could have in the magazine a series of five-thousand word interviews with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Daniel Webster Henry Clay and their like, selecting a strenuous moment in their careers & putting in an appropriate background, it would make a capital series.  Mrs. Atherton has the Hamilton one under way. (23 July 1902)

But apparently what worked well for a “romantic story” did not translate as well into the type of fictional interview that Cosgrove had in mind:

Entre nous, Mrs. Atherton tried Hamilton for us, and turned out a mighty poor thing, which I had to return.  It was slap-dash, rather common, frivolous, and quite outside the idea—rather crude journalism, in fact.  It is mighty difficult to get that sort of thing accomplished just as it must be done. (6 August 1902)

“Mighty difficult,” indeed. This raises a question for all those who would undertake biography or speculative biography: How much more sensationalism or sentimentality did Atherton’s unpublished draft contain to be labeled “common, frivolous” and “crude journalism”?

Farewell to a position: SSAWW VP for Publications

cropped-ssaww2I’ve been VP of Publications for the Society for the Study of American Women Writers since the summer of 2008, when Karen Kilcup told me about the new position and tapped me to serve.  This summer, as of July 31, 2016,  I’m leaving the position in the capable hands of Leslie Allison as the new officers take over under the excellent guidance of our new president, DoVeanna Fulton. (Please read her President’s Message in the new issue of the newsletter; it’s full of great ideas.)

I’ll miss working with SSAWW and with the stellar officers there–Karen, Deb Clarke, Dick Ellis, Kristin Jacobson, Heidi Hanrahan, Melissa Homestead, Karen Wyler, Rita Bode, Sarah Robbins, Maria Sanchez, Carolyn Sorisio, Koritha Mitchell, Beth Lueck, Miranda Green-Barteet, the late Karen Dandurand, Jordan von Cannon, and the board members, among others.

Except for the author society web pages and my 8-year stint as Regional Chapters Chair for the ASA, this is the longest-serving professional office I’ve had.  In the summer of 2008, I built the web site based on the originals from Dawn Keetley and Karen Kilcup and created a logo (above) similar to the original one.

In 2013, I moved the site to WordPress. Instead of a static repository, the site became more nimble and informational in nature as it pushed messages out to Twitter and Facebook; also, the news site is more collaborative, so that more of us could share in the posting. I chose the most minimal (and free) WordPress theme available to minimize the load time on mobile phones and modified it to suit our SSAWW needs.

So, for those playing along at home,  here are some numbers:

  • 13 newsletters
  • 2271 followers across Facebook, Twitter, and those following WordPress
  • 700 subscribers to ssaww-l
  • about 78,036 site views last year, up from 2014’s 47,586
  • number of new books announced, jobs, calls for papers, grants, fellowships: well, a lot, many posted by other SSAWW officers, especially Kristin Jacobson

I’ll be drawing back gradually as Leslie takes over and, I hope, that’ll give me more time to post to this neglected professional blog.  Thanks, SSAWW!

 

 

Oh, W. D. Howells. If only you were right.

Reasons to support the humanities, number eleventy-trillion:

“You have often said that the novel is a perspective,” observed the other man. [Note: Stephen Crane, who was interviewing Howells.]

“A perspective–certainly.  It is a perspective made for the benefit of people who have no true use of their eyes.  The novel, in its real meaning, adjusts the proportions. It preserves the balances.  It is in this way that lessons are to be taught and reforms to be won.  When people are introduced to each other, they will see the resemblances, and won’t want to fight so badly.”

from “Howells Fears Realists Must Wait”