The LMMI's upcoming biennial conference, L.M. Montgomery and Gender June 23rd to 26th, is only a few short weeks away. We are excited to have four keynote speakers: Elizabeth Epperly, Mavis Reimer, Laura Robinson, and Jane Urquhart. In anticipation of the conference, over the next two weeks, the LMMI blog will feature one of our four speakers.
Today is one of LMMI's founding members, Elizabeth Epperly, Professor Emerita. Epperly was the first student to register at the "new" University of Prince Edward Island in 1969. A Victorian scholar and English professor from 1976-2006, she taught at UPEI for 22 years where she also served as founding chair of the L.M. Montgomery Institute and UPEI's fourth (and first female) president (1995-1998). Originally from Virginia, Epperly became a Canadian citizen because of her love for L.M. Montgomery's writing. Epperly's The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass was the first full-length critical study to address all of Montgomery's novels.
1. What was the most interesting thing you discovered while working on the life and work of L.M. Montgomery?
Epperly: There is always something more to discover about her, and through her, that enriches the way I understand life. Just now I was re-reading her 1925 journal response to the 1890s diary of Charles Macneill of Cavendish. How minutely she remembered “sheep storms” and “stumping” and the welcome heat of a Waterloo stove in a small kitchen. And how closely she observed her own nostalgia. Studying Montgomery is a form of sleuthing; new clues keep changing the picture, and I know “we” are just beginning to explore new ways of searching.
2. Favourite Montgomery book and why...
Epperly: My favourite Montgomery book used to be Anne’s House of Dreams, for the many kinds of passion running through and around the story. My favourite now is Emily’s Quest. In EQ I sense almost everywhere the mature artist grappling with constraints; I value her treatment of loss. This was the first Montgomery book my mother read out loud to me, and we both loved the portrait of the female writer persisting against the odds.
3. Sneak Peek: Could you give us a taste of what you will be talking about at the conference?
Epperly: Not so long ago, Montgomery’s fourteenth novel, Magic for Marigold (1929), infuriated me. And now – looking at Montgomery’s treatment of gender through her treatment of time – the very lines that galled me make me reconsider what Montgomery was defying and what she was endorsing. A novel steeped in its times now surprises me for what it makes me question about my sense of time and my assumptions about performativity and identity.
4. What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
Epperly: Oh, the people! So many colourful, generous, enthusiastic, intelligent, informed people eager to talk about and to hear about Montgomery and her works and culture. These LMMI gatherings are unlike any other conferences – academic or otherwise. They are like a clan gathering where newcomers and many-timers, scholars and fans from many countries, are all welcome and caught up in the ideas and exchanges.