Upcoming posts: updates, research workflow, “Biography Corner”

2017-07-05 11.14.57

Figure 1. Cathedral of St. André in Bordeaux Not the conference venue, but nice all the same, wouldn’t you say? 

The apologies-for-not-posting blog post is a well-worn convention in itself, so this is my version.  I have no excuses except travel to ALA, to DHSI, and to the SSAWW conference in Bordeaux:

But posts are on the way:

Updates to the Amlit site.

A “research workflow” post with some new (for me) ways of processing materials I’ve looked at in archives.

“Biography corner” posts on W. Somerset Maugham and Daphne duMaurier.

More later, and, like all disappearing bloggers, I promise to do better.

MLA Humanities Commons

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Figure 1. Humanities Commons offers you space to post your work and also a peaceful, forest-like atmosphere if you choose that header.

The Site Formerly Known As “MLA Commons” is now Humanities Commons (http://hcommons.org). It’s a user-friendly space to share your work rather than at Academia.edu.

I had already moved my work to the WSU Research Exchange and had asked whether links from research exchanges could be used in MLA Commons; Kathleen Fitzpatrick had tweeted back “not yet,” so maybe this new iteration will have that as a possibility.

In the meantime, I’m uploading my work–well, all that it’s legal to post–into the CORE section of Humanities Commons as well as in the WSU Research Exchange. As with all new spaces and technologies, there’s some duplication of effort (think about the evolution from vinyl to cassette to CD to downloads in music).  It’s a little like Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black seeing a newer, smaller CD format and saying, “Guess I’ll have to buy The White Album again.”

It’ll be worth it, though, for the possibility of sharing work in a broader space.

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.]

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”?

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/