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Monday, March 31, 2014

Allison Booth Talk

THE NINETENNTH CENTURY SUBFIELD presents Professor Alison Booth as their guest speaker for this year. Prof. Booth will be giving a talk entitled "Author Country and Transatlantic Homes and Haunts, circa 1913." The talk will take place on Friday, April 11th at 1:00pm in 207A Lind Hall.

Author Country and Transatlantic Homes and Haunts, circa 1913 ~~ Alison
Around 1913, a reader or scholar collected signs of the origins of literature in
real space. The verge of World War I was a high point of "homes and haunts"
publication, collections of topo-biographical criticism of the life and works with
tours, sometimes termed "pilgrimage" and sometimes "literary geography."
Andrew Lang published The Poets' Country in 1913, the same year that Reuben
P. Halleck's New English Literature, an American college textbook, affirmed,
"Some knowledge of the homes and haunts of English authors is necessary for
an understanding of their work." Knowledge and veneration created little
dissonance from this standpoint. Having recently completed a book on homes
and haunts, I experiment with a spinoff investigation, using today's tools of
periodical, book, and biographical studies, into now-obscure literary
professionals circa 1913: Helen Archibald Clarke (1860-1926) and Charlotte
Endymion Porter (1857-1942), domestic partners who have been called "the
very pattern of model late Victorian literary ladies." With examples primarily by
Clarke, co-editor with Porter of Poet-Lore and author of such books as
Browning's England(1908); Longfellow's Country (1910); and Hawthorne's
Country (1910), the talk focuses on Hawthorne and Longfellow. The discourse
of literary pilgrimage and author country was Anglophile and often explicitly
racist, transatlantic, and patriotic, while Clarke's and Porter's careers and
projects often espouse feminist as well as aesthetic ideas. I examine the
decontextualizing photographs of houses and landscapes and fictional places
along with some of the conventions of house visiting in publications for a
general reader. Already by the 1880s, specialist studies were more textual
than biographical, yet Clarke and Porter and participants in the Browning
Society of Boston, for instance, bridged audiences and aims in ways nearly
unknown today. What was at stake in increasing academic detachment from
loving literature and seeking its sacred sites? Can we find a century ago some
precedents for a pluralist approach to literary studies today? In the digital age,
in a crisis in the humanities, we might rediscover participatory, "public"
scholarship and a new cultural geography, without reverting to forms of worship
circa 1913.