Caroline Jones provides highlights from Day Two of the L.M. Montgomery and Gender Conference
Day Two, by Caroline E. Jones
Day Two of the conference was as rich and full as day one. The day started with two concurrent sessions—and, as Laura lamented, it is so hard to choose! One session, which I missed, focused on Romance, Humour, and Mockery, with Christina Hitchcock and Kiera Ball’s exploration of female romance and love (which abound in Montgomery’s work), Rachel McMillan’s discussion of the “bitter laugh” of Montgomery’s anti-heroes Dean Priest and Barney Snaith, and Mary Lambert’s discussion of the intersections of humor and gender.
The other panel looked at Genre, Creativity, Imagination, and Gender, through the lenses of three Montgomery protagonists. I opened the session with a discussion of the gendered responses to artists in the Emily series. Catherine Clark followed with an intriguing reading of The Blue Castle as an inverted, subverted fairy tale, following themes of transformation of both Valancy and her beloved. Nancy McCabe concluded the session with a look at how Montgomery repeatedly challenges, subverts, and mocks traditional mores of Victorian womanhood in Anne of Avonlea.
After a break we came together for our second keynote address, this one from Mavis Reimer, editor of Such a Simple Little Tale: Critical Responses to L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, one of the first scholarly essay collections on the novel. This talk took us back to Canada before and around the turn of the twentieth century, considering social and cultural responses to orphans both foreign and domestic, and looking at the ways charitable organizations essentially marketed their children to suitable homes, thus giving some context for the situation that leads Anne to Green Gables.
A much-needed and slightly abbreviated lunch break led us to the afternoon plenary session, an exciting mix of established and new scholars: E. Holly Pike led off the session with a titillating discussion of twins, cross-dressing, re-naming, and transgression that had us all wondering when we started using the word “dick” as more than a nickname, and remembering Montgomery’s brilliance with language. New scholar Bonnie Tulloch demonstrated that domesticity and adventure can coexist in the “Annescapade,” a home-building narrative. Andrea McKenzie, conference co-chair, concluded the session with a hilarious and pointed critique of Kevin Sullivan’s third Anne movie, a “tragic comedy” of WWI that had the Germans running the wrong way and Anne swigging from a flask while dressed as a nun. The conclusion? It’s time for a REAL film version of Rilla of Ingleside, one that explores WWI from the Canadian homefront.
Another hard choice between two panels followed: I went to Space, Bodies, and Place, where Sophia Kreuzkamp considered Montgomery’s treatment of gender infractions in her final work, The Blythes are Quoted. Ashley Wilson took us back to The Blue Castle and Barney Snaith, who reverses the traditional pattern of Montgomery female characters inherently connected to the natural world, and asked us to think about how this shift codes him as both masculine and feminine. Lively discussion ensued!
Our second international panel explored the reception of Montgomery in three different countries. Kotaro Nakagaki explored the cultural reception of Anne of Green Gables in Japan, Natalia Dukatova used Anne of Green Gables as a lens for considering gender roles in Slovak children’s literature, and Laura Leden looked at the “purification” of Emily of New Moon in Swedish translation.
The final session featured Gwen Layton of the L.M. Montgomery Society of Ontario speaking on the “Scottish-Presbyterian Ethos in L.M. Montgomery’s Leaskdale,” and included many revealing anecdotes from those who knew Montgomery from her first years in Ontario, and the influence she and her husband, Rev. Ewan Macdonald, had on that community.
By now, of course, we are all pining for food (and drink), so after a reminder to bid on the auction items, we adjourned for supper. Fortunately, the evening was not over, and many of us reconvened at the Confederation Centre for a talk, reading, and signing by keynote speaker (Saturday’s—tune in at 11:00) Jane Urquhart. Very poignant were Urquhart’s stories of reading the same copy of Anne of Green Gables that had been handed down and around through the family. If you have not read Urquhart’s biography of L.M. Montgomery for Penguin Canada’s Extraordinary Canadians series, I urge you to do so immediately! It is beautifully structured and sensitively written.
Tune in tomorrow for more on LMMI2016!