Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing, 1 September 2016

CAMPBELL Bitter compBitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing will be out from the University of Georgia Press in September 2016.

Here’s a brief review from the University of Georgia catalog:

“No work that I know of explores in such detail and within the context of a shared literary/aesthetic tradition the incredible number of women writers Campbell’s study covers and, at times, uncovers, resurrecting writers once considered important but then shunted aside by ideologically prescribed recanonizations. The book is important, then, not only for uncovering an extended line of women writers who constitute a tradition but for modeling the type of cultural study, grounded in an appreciation of all forms of American artistic expression, that is inclusive and therefore representative of American literary production.” (Mary E. Papke editor of Twisted from the Ordinary: Essays on American Literary Naturalism)

http://www.ugapress.org/index.php/books/bitter_tastes/

 

A personal history of email closings, 1988-present

DEC_VT100_terminalAn article on Mashable tells us that “best” is dead as an email closing.  Abrupt closings are now the way to go, it seems. But everything old is new again, I guess.

In 1988, when we had Bitnet addresses, closings depended on the level of formality.  For formal emails–not that there were as many academics to write to back then–I used good old “Sincerely,” like a letter. Or “Cordially.” For friends, no closing, or maybe just your name.

When we used names, we used “Dear X” for a while, and then “Hi, X.” Getting rid of that comma–which is grammatically necessary but Not Done in email, which then was “e-mail”–was a hard habit to break for me.

But you had to pay attention to what you were typing and keep it short, because the email client we used back then on those black background-and-amber-lettered VAX terminal screens (Pre-PINE) wouldn’t let you go up a line to correct a typo. There was no possibility of cut and paste. If there was a typo and you’d already gone on to the next line, you started over, if you were writing a formal message. If you were writing to a friend, the friend wouldn’t care.

Then in the early 1990s I started seeing the ones we see today: “Best,” “Best regards,” and, in one from about 1997, “All best,” which puzzled me at first until I grew to like the economy of it.

As more people sent email, the closings varied more: “Warm regards,” “Cheers,” “Best wishes,” and the now-ubiquitous “Thanks” even though no favor had been requested or rendered.

In the 2010s, people started to use “I hope you are well” at the beginning of all emails, and the signature files grew from a manageable and agreed-upon length of 4 lines to 5+ lines, sometimes with graphics.  Some started using just the closing (“Thanks,” usually) and the signature file without typing a name above it, maybe because they’d already used up all the courtesy at the beginning of the message.

And now, we’re told, “Best” is out, as is “Thanks,” because there must be fashions and fashion experts in all things, even email.

I’m still a fan of “Best” or “Thanks” because leaving just the period at the end of the last sentence seems curt.

But another very old email rule, one I internalized long ago, is that you can mimic the style of the messages you’re sent. If you don’t want to use a closing or salutation in a message to me, my reply won’t have them, either.

It won’t be strange. It’ll be 1988 all over again.

 

 

 

More articles at Research Exchange: W. D. Howells, Stephen Crane

 

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Three more of my essays are available at the WSU Research Exchange at https://research.wsulibs.wsu.edu/xmlui/handle/2376/5613, below.

Ideally, MLA Commons would be able to accept links to institutional repositories, and–hooray!–they’re working on it (see above).

Recent Submissions

  • Reflections on Stephen Crane

    Campbell, Donna (Stephen Crane Studies, 2006)
    Like a lot of people, I was first introduced to Crane in a high school English class, but since the book was The Red Badge of Courage, and hence about war, I paid little attention. I did not care about war or about Henry …
  • W. D. Howells’s Unpublished Letters to J. Harvey Greene

    Campbell, Donna (Resources for American Literary Study, 2011)
    The relationship between W. D. Howells (1H37-1920) and his boyhood friend .James Harvey (or Hervey) Greene (1833-90) is treated only briefly in biographies of Howells, an understandable situation given the extensive network …
  • More than a Family Resemblance? Agnes Crane’s “A Victorious Defeat” and Stephen Crane’s The Third Violet

    Campbell, Donna (Stephen Crane Studies, 2007)
    Like his younger contemporary Jack London, who famously claimed to have had “no mentor but myself,” Stephen Crane acknowledged few influences on his writing. Established authors such as W. D. Howells and contemporaries …

How to combine multiple PDF files into one in Preview

Even though Mac updates destroyed Preview on my desktop, my ancient MacBook (6 years old and proud of it) still has a functioning Preview app. Here’s the process, which I’m writing down here because otherwise I forget it and have to rediscover it every single time.

  1. Open both documents in Preview.
  2. Choose the Sidebar icon in both of them, or the one that shows you little thumbnails of the pages along the side.
  3. Select the document you want to move from the thumbnails in the sidebar of one document and drag it over to the other document. Place it wherever you’d like it to go.
  4. Select all the thumbnails in the sidebar of the combined document.
  5. IMPORTANT. If you try to SAVE or EXPORT the document at this point, you’ll end up with one page. Don’t do it. Instead, choose PRINT.
  6. When the PRINT dialogue comes up, choose PDF as your printing option.
  7. Name the file, save it, and you’re done.

Theoretically you can do this with Adobe Acrobat DC as well, with only a few more steps, but that’s available only with the Creative Cloud subscription.  It’s also possible with NitroPro (which isn’t free) and apparently with the free FoxItReader. You can’t merge them using the free Adobe Reader, though.

I have yet to find a good–that is, simple–workaround for inserting signatures into documents.  Adobe Acrobat DC has a lot of complex options for this, but not one has allowed me to do what Preview used to do with a single click.

 

Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons

ambersonsnovelBooth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons is a book I used to read and reread years ago, so much so that when I heard there was a movie with Orson Welles, I assumed immediately that he was perfect casting for George Minafer. I didn’t know at the time that it was a brilliant film by Welles much altered in the editing room, or that Tim Holt played the part. Holt was good, but I still think that the young Welles could and should have played it.

Put rather too simplistically, it’s the story of a declining family, the Ambersons, in a gradually industrializing town that’s passing them by. The protagonist is George Amberson Minafer, as insufferable a character as you’ll ever meet in fiction: proud, pig-headed, wielding class privilege like a whip–sometimes literally. His adoring mother, Isabel, had married George’s father, Wilbur Minafer, out of pique when her suitor, Eugene, showed up drunk one night and serenaded her. Isabel spoils George outrageously, as the town predicts she will.

When Eugene, now a widower, and his daughter, Lucy, return to their “Midland town,” Eugene falls in love with the now-widowed Isabel, and George courts Lucy, who loves him but is exasperated by his behavior. George forbids Isabel (his mother, remember) to see Eugene, and she dies without having had a chance to say goodbye to him.

On one occasion, Lucy tries to explain to Eugene, by using a supposedly Native American legend,  why she’s so attracted to George, even though he’s a character that the reader mostly wants to strangle:

“Vendonah [Rides-Down-Everything] was an unspeakable case,” Lucy continued. “He was so proud that he wore iron shoes and he walked over people’s faces with them. He was always killing people that way, and so at last the tribe decided that it wasn’t a good enough excuse for him that he was young and inexperienced—he’d have to go. They took him down to the river, and put him in a canoe, and pushed him out from shore; and then they ran along the bank and wouldn’t let him land, until at last the current carried the canoe out into the middle, and then on down to the ocean, and he never got back. They didn’t want him back, of course, and if he’d been able to manage it, they’d have put him in another canoe and shoved him out into the river again. But still, they didn’t elect another chief in his place. Other tribes thought that was curious, and wondered about it a lot, but finally they came to the conclusion that the beech grove people were afraid a new chief might turn out to be a bad Indian, too, and wear iron shoes like Vendonah. But they were wrong, because the real reason was that the tribe had led such an exciting life under Vendonah that they couldn’t settle down to anything tamer. He was awful, but he always kept things happening—terrible things, of course. They hated him, but they weren’t able to discover any other warrior that they wanted to make chief in his place. I suppose it was a little like drinking a glass of too strong wine and then trying to take the taste out of your mouth with barley water. They couldn’t help feeling that way.”

George eventually gets his come-uppance, as everyone in the town hopes he will, but virtually no one is there to see, or care, or remember the Ambersons.

ambersonsmovieOne of the things that Tarkington gets a lot right in the psychology of a small town is this idea of the figure that a town–or a media cycle in an election year, come to think of it– love to hate but can’t resist talking or writing about. The town doesn’t love George, or even like him, but as he does for Lucy, he makes life exciting for the town. There’s a sizable shelf of critical books on why protagonists don’t have to be likable (hello, Modernism!), but Tarkington hits on one idea–excitement–that’s often missing from these accounts.

Marginalia in James Lane Allen’s Summer in Arcady: A Tale of Nature

2016-02-23 12.54.59Today I’ve been rereading James Lane Allen’s Summer in Arcady: A Tale of Nature (New York: Macmillan and Co., London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1896) and noticed something that I hadn’t remembered, something not covered in the yellow Post-Its that mark the content–marginalia.

These pictures appear only in the Prelude, not elsewhere in this volume, but as the bookseller noted, “Someone has added skillful watercolor illustrations to pages 1, 2, & 4.”

The illustrations match the text, too; they’re not random doodles.

Here they are:

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