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L.M. Montgomery and Gender Conference: Day One

 Laura Robinson recounts for us the excitement of the first day of LMMI's L.M. Montgomery and Gender Conference.

Day One, by Laura Robinson, Visiting Scholar and Conference Co-Chair

ImageToday was the long-anticipated day one of the L.M. Montgomery and Gender conference at the UPEI, and what a day it was.  By the end of this day (and it’s not over yet!), my phone had died from so much live-tweeting, we were trending on twitter, and my brain hurt.  With a rather massive Silent Auction fundraiser running all day in the hallway by the Friends of the L.M. Montgomery Institute, the conference kicked off with welcomes to all the new and returning Montgomery-ites. 

Everyone got down to some serious academic business with the first plenary session, Gender, Culture, and Identity, in which Carole Gerson compared Montgomery and E. Pauline Johnson’s representation of a “halfbreed girl.”  Benjamin Lefebvre followed her with his fascinating examination of how Montgomery disguised her identity through her pen names, often to masquerade as a male writer.  Carolyn Strom Collins then looked at Montgomery’s overlooked poetry for its messages about the ideal woman. 

With only a few minutes break for coffee and a muffin, we rushed back in for the first of the four keynotes: "The Betsy Talk." Every year, Elizabeth Epperly, the founder of the L.M. Montgomery Institute presents a keynote, and this year she dazzled us with her queering of time in Magic for Marigold, an underappreciated Montgomery novel if ever there was one.  “Temporal drag” is the way that Betsy understands the one two beat of time in M4M, the hesitation to change. Copyright Rachel McMillan

After a wonderful lunch, for which we were joined by the two actors who play Anne and Gilbert: The Musical, Holly Cinnamon and Cameron Kneteman, we raced back for two concurrent sessions. 

It is so hard to choose which session to attend! 

I went to one on Ideal Men? during which Melanie Fishbane entertained with her assessment of the Perfect Man Stereotype. Vappu Kannas followed up with an exploration of the biting satire, fun humour, and female intimacy in Montgomery and Nora Lefurgey’s co-authored diary. 

I heard that the other session on Intertextual Montgomery was also fascinating: Yoshiko Akamatsu compared Montgomery’s novels to a Japanese novel, while Denise MacNeil paired an Australian text with Anne of Green Gables

Finally, Erin Spring and Heather Ladd argued that Montgomery found a natural muse in Thomson’s The Seasons. The final concurrent session of the day had me trying to decide between Girls Reading Girls Reading or International Montgomery. I went to the first one and took in Sara Kokkonen’s presentation on Finnish readers’ responses to Montgomery. Emily Woster presented on the blurriness of women writers who are readers writing for their readers. And Åsa Warnqvist examined the emancipatory power of productive reading and the creation of future memory.  “Girlhood reading is subversive,” she declared. 

The other session also must have been excellent, given that Carolin Sandner discussed the German and Spanish translations of The Blue Castle, Myry Voipio looked at sexuality in contemporary Finnish girls’ stories, and Ariko Kawabata looked at the figure of the invalid in one of Montgomery’s short stories.

Our day wasn’t done!  We next filed in to the theatre for the Launch of Kindred Spaces, the digitized version of the Ryrie-Campbell collection at Robertson Library.  We all owe Donna Campbell never-ending gratitude for donating her collection of materials to UPEI and the LMMI; and the work that Simon Lloyd, Donald Moses, Mark Leggott, and Lindsay McCowan put into creating such an accessible and searchable database.  Megadata indeed!  Check it out here:

I might have to find some raspberry cordial and kindred spirits now to chat about all that happened and prepare for Day Two, tomorrow.