(There are more on the other side of the country.)
Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly, Diaboliques, trans. Raymond A. MacKenzie (Minnnesota, 2015). Translation of Barbey's (in)famous collection of six short stories on a variety of deliberately outrageous subjects; first published in 1874. (Barnes & Noble)
And here we come to the end of E. H. Dering, who finished this novel just before dying. As far as I know, this novel did not provoke my current symptoms (provided courtesy of the belated revelation that I'm allergic to sulfa-class drugs), but I'm sure Dering would have some spiritual advice about how to handle my low-grade suffering. Anyway. The Ban of Maplethorpe (1894) is a striking instance of a novelist having a change of heart, as it is a straight-up rewrite of Freville Chase, albeit without a baby-switch. The Ban's backstory, with which Dering does almost nothing beyond introduce some wandering ghosts in a funeral procession, is that Maplethorpe has never had an heir in the male line as divine punishment for an apostate alienating the property from the recusant owners. This is a fairly traditional plot, and Dering is not the only nineteenth-century Catholic novelist to use it (e.g., Laetitia Selwyn Oliver's Father Placid). In the main plot, our hero, the saintly Oswald Bramsby (standing in for the saintly Everard Freville), falls in love with the Protestant Pearl (her real name is never used after her first introduction) of Maplethorpe (standing in for the Protestant Ida); unlike Everard, who is so charitable as to completely do himself in, Oswald immediately figures out that the two revolutionary foreigners in his plot, the General Foreigner (no name--"Foreigner" is apparently sufficient for Dering) and the Baroness Diabolouski (really), are Total Villains and Not to be Trusted.As in Freville Chase, a Protestant, Lady Rossden, attempts to interfere with the Grand Romance between Oswald and the Pearl by separating them, while the Baroness (a Fallen Catholic) attempts to help Augustus Twerleby (another Fallen Catholic) hang on to an inheritance by marrying the Pearl, his ward, off to the General Foreigner. Augustus has engaged in Shenanigans with the Pearl's father's will, hiding a codicil that would not be to his best advantage. Worse still, Augustus also betrayed the beautiful Gertrude, niece to Mr. Blastmore (who swears a lot--er, just go with it), by decoying her into a False Marriage. Of course, Dering is all about conversion, so the Pearl initially suffers the same sort of emotional breakdown that Grace does: like Ida, she insists that if the Evil Rumors about Bramsby first being involved with Gertrude, then with the Baroness, are "true," then "I shall not believe in anyone" (I.237). When, for quite some time, she does become convinced of the rumors, then she loses faith entirely. In other words, apart from her mistake, she gives in to the sin of elevating sinful humanity above divine perfection. When Ida makes the same mistake, she is punished by marriage to her foreigner, followed by Everard's death and, soon after, her own, although she redeems herself at least by conversion; by contrast, Oswald helps rescue the Pearl from the clutches of the General Foreigner and the Baroness, and not only manages to convert her via passionately romantic theological disquisitions rooted in Aquinas (again, really), but manages to recover from his wounds and marry her. Hooray! But Augustus Twerleby, the General Foreigner, and the Baroness do not experience the same miracle of divine grace that Moncalvo did--and Augustus and the Baroness, forever locked together in a horrific marriage based in mutual loathing, are both completely conscious that they have rejected grace altogether. Thus, whereas the first novel demonstrates how grace can save even the most apparently debased and evil character, the second redeems solely the mundanely-flawed characters and sends the rest off to stew in their coming damnation.
Part of the reason for the change, I think, is that Dering has slightly shifted his theological emphasis to the importance of free will. Early on, Oswald explains to the Pearl why the Church objects to mesmerism: "Can it be right to give up the control of one's will to another person--the control of that will through which we shall be saved or lost?" (I.43). By contrast, the Baroness tells the General Foreigner that "we have no free will, though we seem to exercise a great deal of freedom when we want something" (I.123). Later, however, she describes herself as having an "indomitable will," and insists that "I cannot repent. My will is too strong to resist--" (I.131). This, explains the narrator, is because she was "under the influence of the devil, and refusing to pray for the grace of God" (I.131). Similarly, when Twerleby faces and succumbs to temptation at Mr. Malmaines' deathbed, his "[c]onscience again warned him, and again he listened, oscillating between knowledge of his duty and free consent against it" (I.203). The Baroness' "indomitable will" is the will not to choose goodness, which would require her to humble herself before God against the tyranny of her own desires, just as Twerleby's twirls back and forth between "duty" (the higher obligation to the needs of another) and the "free consent" he makes to ignore it (thus, again, falling prey to his own sinful lusts). Over and over, the novel repeats this point: one has the free will to choose salvation, the path of duty, or to choose damnation, the path of sin. The Baroness, Twerleby, and the General Foreigner are all nightmarish characters precisely because they again and again will their own alienation from God's grace--which, as Freville Chase makes clear, can be given freely to even the chief of sinners. The first novel saves just about everyone far too late for it to do them any earthly good, although they are at least promised rewards in heaven. The second novel clears the way for all the characters tending towards the good to both freely choose it and to live (reasonably) happily ever after, but then dramatizes the psychologies of men and women who, given multiple opportunities to choose, insist on evil. It is very understanding of circumstances that might lead someone to initially make the wrong choice, as Gertrude did when she ran off with a disguised Twerleby or the Pearl when she lost faith in Oswald, but it always returns to the position that when prayer and conscience make the right choice clear, it must be made immediately and freely. Under those conditions, circumstances count for nothing.
In 1850, Nicholas Wiseman is excited. He's a new Cardinal! The Vatican has reinstated the hierarchy in England! Why not celebrate?
So he pens a pastoral letter, "From without the Flaminian Gate" (sometimes rendered "From out the Flaminian Gate," "From out of the Flaminian Gate of Rome," or just "From the Flaminian Gate"), which mentions, in the midst of his enthusiasm, that as part of the new arrangement, "we govern and shall continue to govern, the counties of Middlesex, Hertford and Essex, as Ordinary thereof, and those of Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Berkshire and Hampshire, with the islands annexed, as Administrator with Ordinary jurisdiction." Now, this is perfectly correct in a technical sense: as the Cardinal of Westminster, he had ultimate conntrol over the new dioceses. The statement is right. Unfortunately, between this and the aforementioned enthusiasm, Protestants everywhere believed that he was claiming dominion over the country itself. Even though Wiseman raced to correct this interpretation, in a statement that might conveniently be abridged thusly--
--he didn't succeed, and some years of extreme anti-Catholic nastiness followed.
I recently wrote a short article about this event, which at the time was dubbed "the papal aggression," and one of the things I realized is that nobody thinks Wiseman was in the right rhetorically, no matter how accurate he was technically. A lot of his Catholic contemporaries were not exactly thrilled either--it sounds like Newman wanted to crawl under a convenient pew, for example--but there hasn't been what you'd call a revisionist effort in Wiseman's favor. In effect, he's accused of reading the room rather incompetently. But, with some exceptions, it's interesting that the blame tends to fall primarily on Wiseman instead of the room; looking at the current version of my article, I too hand him some of the blame (although I bring in some Catholic support on his side). Nor is the blame denominational--Catholic biographers and historians tend to whack their figurative heads against the desk just as hard as the Protestants (or otherwise affiliated). The underlying assumption is that Wiseman should have taken the temperature (to borrow from Newman) of his Protestant contemporaries with a better-calibrated intellectual thermometer before engaging in any sort of rhetorical flourish, let alone a literal description of the charge he had been given. I wonder, though, to what extent the temperature could, as it were, have been taken, especially given what we know about the Vatican's prior negotiations with the British government on the subject--and not least because Wiseman presumably thought he was speaking to a Catholic instead of a Protestant room. Contemporary social media is not the only place where messaging goes awry...
Here we have another unusually well-known novel--unusually well-known for this blog, that is. (It was even filmed multiple times--in fact, there's far more scholarship related to the various early films than there is about the novel itself.) The title character of "Maxwell Gray"'s (Mary Gleed Tuttiett's) The Silence of Dean Maitland (1886) is an Anglo-Catholic clergyman famed for his speaking voice--a "beautiful voice" (17), a "musical voice" (74), a "richly compassed voice" (80), and so on. Not surprisingly, then, the title is both literal and ironic: Cyril Maitland, famous for speaking, keeps silent about the events that threaten to do him in. Cyril, momentarily taken with the beauty of a young working-class woman with whom he grew up, Alma Lee, seduces and impregnates her; when, much later, he is confronted by her enraged father, the coachman Benjamin Lee, Cyril fights back and kills him. For obvious reasons, this sequence of actions is not conducive to a successful clerical career. At one point, Cyril remembers how, as a child, he broke a vase, only for his best friend, Henry Everard, to be punished instead. "I was miserable for days," Cyril tells Henry, "hating myself, and yet too frightened to tell the truth" (95). In a novel somewhat over-enamored of foreshadowing ("Could she but have had one glimpse of the swift-coming future..." ), it will come as no shock to the reader that Cyril proceeds to reenact his childhood failure on a grand scale, with Henry spending nearly twenty years doing hard labor in prison after being convicted of Cyril's crime. As the narrator says of Cyril, "But he was a coward, and loved the praise of men" (283). Despite all this, Henry is kept alive by both the love of Cyril's better half, his twin sister Lilian, and his eventual realization that he can do good to other men while in prison. Eventually, of course, the novel's sensationalist aspects reassert themselves at the end, as both Alma and her adult son return from America, Henry returns home, and Cyril (whose life has been plagued by a disillusioned wife and multiple deceased children) delivers a stinging self-indictment from the pulpit before conveniently dying right there. (In a depressingly obvious bit of symbolism, the cat he raised with his sister chooses that moment to die, too.) At least Lilian and Henry get to live happily ever after, adopting all of Cyril's remaining children in the process.
Despite Cyril's affiliation, this is not an anti-Anglo-Catholic novel. Much of what Cyril does in his early career, such as working in the urban slums alongside other Anglo-Catholic priests, is represented as clearly admirable; the novel is much harsher on Henry's killjoy brother George, a hardcore evangelical who later becomes a hardcore Ritualist. Instead, beyond its obvious critique of Christian hypocrisy, of which Cyril is actually far from the only example in the text, the novel attacks clerical charisma or, to put it differently, the cult of the saintly clergyman--the preacher as rock star. Cyril's upward trajectory depends on his ability to embody popular aesthetic notions of the true ascetic Christian, and to perform Christian sermons instead of simply delivering them. Henry, for example, meditates on Cyril's "pale, saint-like features and white-stoled form, the crimson from a martyr's robe in the south chancel window staining in a long bar the priest's breast and hands and the very chalice he held" (75); elsewhere, the novel dwells on Cyril's "worn cheek" (98), his "haggard face" (130). Cyril's peculiar beauty, which derives in part from the very haggardness of his features, appears to signify virtue according to all the tropes of Christian imagery, and actually signifies that he is being eaten from within by his own consciousness of sin. His sermons, which seem "brilliant and soul-searching orations" (326), are identified as theatre by a clergyman who has discovered the truth: "How did you like the play?" (298). These sermons provoke extreme emotional effects from his audiences; early on, an anxious Everard "began to fear some unseemly hysteric excitement in the little congregation" (78) as Cyril speaks. Cyril's ability to manipulate both men and women into sobs and self-condemnation threatens to overstep the boundaries between a righteous awakening to the reality of sin and a more dangerous (and implicitly feminized) mass delusion. Such rhetorical skill, which has market value within the Church of England, tips the congregation over into something resembling a fandom. In fact, when Cyril preaches his final sermon indicting himself as a criminal, most of his auditors refuse to believe it, interpreting his confession as the result of madness rather than violate the saintly image he and they have together constructed. The dangers of such charisma emerge when Henry first realizes the truth and concludes, because Cyril betrayed him, that "[t]here is no God [...] there is no good, no help anywhere" (179).
The novel's alternative to the dangers of clerical charisma is, in effect, a non-dogmatic lay Christianity, practiced by both men and women. Henry Everard's long imprisonment on Cyril's behalf, which eventually turns into a loose Christ analogy of sorts--highlighted by Cyril's sermon on Psalm 55:14, which sets up Cyril as Judas to Henry's Christ--becomes an act of ongoing ministry to the other prisoners. He finds "flowers and charity" strewn along the way in prison and becomes instrumental to saving several of his fellow inmates; when released, he comes across another former prisoner, Smithson, who uses his shop as a means of rehabilitating others instead of focusing on profit (285). Similarly, Cyril's twin sister Lilian is partly responsible, we are told, for "all that was best and most enduring in his writings" (317), and her purity makes her capable of taming dangerous animals (and non-dangerous ones), solving all moral problems within a square mile, and, in general, wearing a halo. Moreover, Lilian's animal-taming powers are linked specifically to sexual innocence. When Henry asks Cyril, who used to be able to do the same thing, why he has lost the skill, he sadly replies, "I am a man!" (101)--here, unbeknownst to Henry, associating sexual sin with the nature of manhood, in a way that Henry himself proves capable of resisting. The novel links Lilian's and Henry's moral and erotic purity, I think, with its Wordsworthian paeans to natural beauty: throughout, the created world appears as a good thing, overflowing with "the richest tones of color" (192) and providing an abundance of innocent aesthetic enjoyment to the properly attuned viewer. Lilian's ability to tame animals associates her with this kind of natural goodness, not prelapsarian but certainly the best that can be had in a fallen world.
Her movement from Cyril to Henry, moreover, suggests the right place for sexual maturity within this world, drawing on an implicitly complementarian view of gender identity. Cyril has a "feminine element" (93), an "almost feminine piety" (188), and an "almost womanly tenderness" (282), all of which in the end prove inadequate to moral action; instead of complementing his sister, he turns out to be inferior to her, both in his self-delusions and in his sexual failure. Unlike his sister, who has a "perfect self-command" (102), Cyril engages in excessive ascetic practices, such as wearing a spiked cross, in order to tame his bodily desires. (This is a standard Victorian critique of asceticism: the ascetic focuses on bodily disciplines at the expense of the mind.) Henry, who is more "masculine" (93), is in part so because he resists erotic desire through the equivalent of Lilian's mental strength. In that sense, the novel assigns both genders the responsibility of caring (Henry proves to be as nurturing as Lilian), but also suggests that caring needs to manifest itself in gender-appropriate ways. Lilian, the exemplar of perfect and self-controlled womanhood, is the right emotional and physical partner for Henry, the exemplar of perfect and self-controlled manhood; Cyril, defined by a problematic masculinity and an equally problematic tendency to physical and emotional excess, has to be shown the door.
The Victorian novel lurking behind Margaret Elphinstone's neo-Victorian Light (2006) is Middlemarch. Not in the sense of any direct lift from Eliot's plot(s), but rather in its approach: Light takes place over three days in 1831, just on the cusp of the Great Reform Act, and dramatizes the seismic historical shifts of the early nineteenth century via a small group of middling folk. Because virtually all of the novel takes place on the (invented) island of Ellan Bride, unoccupied except for the family that keeps the lighthouse running, the effect is something like that of a controlled scientific experiment. Or moderately controlled, anyway. The plot itself is simple: a surveyor, Archibald Buchanan (a Highlander by way of Edinburgh), and his assistant, Ben Groat (from Orkney), arrive on the Isle of Man in order to scope out the proper spot for a new lighthouse on Ellan Bride to be built by Robert Stevenson. Alas, there already is a lighthouse, which has been operated by Lucy Geddes ever since the death of her brother Jim; she, her sister-in-law Diya (the impoverished daughter of an English officer and an unnamed woman from India), and their children Breesha, Mally, and Billy will all be displaced once the new lighthouse is in operation. Diya, we are told, means "light," one of the many changes the novel rings on its title. For Diya herself, "light" permeates her memories of India, memories she also eventually concedes may be filtered through nostalgia. There is the lighthouse itself, whose light makes it safe for ships to pass, but also interferes with smuggling operations. There is the post-Enlightenment, of which Archie, with his Edinburgh education, is a representative. But light has its dangers. Breesha tries to kill Archie by setting out a false light (which would have made him fall to his death). And the new lighthouse, designed to bring in more and larger ships, represents the multi-edged effects of new technology in a capitalist age. The conflict between the necessity of updating the lighthouse and the family's needs drives what follows.
In a sense, nothing follows. One of the most interesting things about the book's construction--which will also be the thing most frustrating to many readers, I expect--is that it glories in being incomplete. The most disruptive or shocking events, such as Jim Geddes' death by drowning or Diya's unexpected arrival in Castletown, happen prior to the novel's opening and are only partially represented to the reader. By contrast, the most shocking potential event in the novel's present, Breesha's attempted murder of Archie (whose agency in the family's removal she doesn't really understand), not only fails, but is kept a secret. "Who the hell would I want to tell?" (351), asks Archie, baffled by Lucy's fear that he would have Breesha arrested. By the end, only one plot thread--the immediate fate of the Geddes clan--has a conclusion in sight. Everything else--Ben's proposal to Lucy, the illegitimate Billy's newfound interest in his father, Archie's upcoming voyage on the HMS Beagle, Archie's impending confrontation with the governor, Diya's growing romantic interest in Archie, the building of the new lighthouse itself--is simply left open. Both characters and readers are left suspended between beginnings and endings. "If only it had never happened," Lucy thinks to herself on the first page, the "it" left momentarily without an antecedent; this unspecified but definite beginning--Jim's death--is, in a sense, not the beginning at all, given that all the novel's characters are either working for or at the mercy of others. Despite Lucy's attempt to fix on a single cause, the narrative, as academics like to say, is overdetermined.
Despite the novel's title, this narrative strategy emerges from its other major figure for history: geology. Charles Lyell exerts a strong influence on Archie--whose religious doubts hint at how faith will be transformed by scientific inquiry--and his work intrigues Diya as well. Contemplating some cliffs, Archie thinks to himself that "Mr. Lyell, in his revolutionary book, argued that aeons of unending change had created the rock formations one saw today, but in Archie's experience the sea cliffs often looked deceptively like the results of a sudden, unimaginable cataclysm, and perhaps nowhere so much as here" (83). The tension between these two poles--the "aeons of unending change" invisible to the present viewer's gaze and the startling shock of apocalyptic transformation--animates how the characters understand the ways in which they have been grounded in local history and culture. But the novel complicates Archie's formulation of this tension, which casts the "sudden, unimaginable cataclysm" as an illusion. Archie's problem, which plays out at the level of individual relationships, is that he is far better at taking the long view (literally: he spends a lot of time with telescopes) than he is at negotiating the kind of upheavals that take place between people in clock time, as it were. By contrast, Lucy's desire to remain on the island is an attempt to maintain the fantasy of an "always," in which the island preserves time and community apart from the terrors of a rapidly-changing outside world. Yet, as she comes to admit by the end, "[w]hat might start with one tuft of thrift dislodged from its crumbling ledge, might end as a cataclysm, sweeping away plants, birds, nests, paths, beaches--people too, if they happened to be in the way" (421). Her ability to embrace change and decide to leave the island partly derives from her ability to finally balance the long duration of geological history and the local cataclysms of human existence. More generally, the novel's three-day time span is both of cataclysmic importance to the characters and merely a geological layer of sorts in terms of their own life histories--hence the novel's deliberate incompleteness.
Although the novel is better on intra-British tensions than it is on empire, Archie and Diya alike hint at the unevenness of what constitutes the relationship between personal and national (or global) identity in the early Victorian period, split as they are by regional and class affiliations. The Manxmen resent both Archie and his employer because the Duke of Atholl (presumably the fourth) had exploited the Isle for the profit of his and other Scots. Archie, though, occupies an uneasy space as a Highlander who, while educated at the University of Edinburgh, lacks a classical background (he notes more than once that he cannot understand Latin) and thus is more genteel than Lucy Geddes but less so than the cultured Diya. In turn, Diya, who was transplanted from India and then effectively abandoned by her father, has a more-than-ladylike education, but both her race and her marriage to a working-class man (along with her probable illegitimacy) have ejected her from middle-class status. This is not, however, what Archie sees: "She was a lady. She spoke the King's English. Her skin was as brown as a hazel-nut. She wore gold studs in her ears, and a sacking apron stained with soil" (105). The anaphora highlights Archie's inability to process the signifiers of her social identity; Ben, equally at sea, comments that "[i]t's like being in a bloody fairy story!" (110) Diya's status as both quintessentially English and quintessentially Other is never fully resolved, any more than is Archie's status as both educated and working-class. "Master Buchanan," thinks Finn, the man responsible for transporting goods and passengers to and from the island, "was the sort who got into trouble because they were too confused about who they were themselves to think clearly about the effect they might be having on everybody else" (431). Their mutual inability to do anything about their romantic attraction further suggests how they are both defined by being between: Archie's education has alienated him from his parents, and his ambitions lead him to a state of ongoing transit with no fixed point of re-entry; Diya cannot return to India but also, unlike Lucy, cannot bear to remain on the island, nor does she see the family's next stop as anything but a jumping-off point. The commonalities that may make readers expect the two of them to pair up also explain why, at least at this point in their histories, they can't.
No, not the holy site, but Emile Zola's Lourdes (1894), the first novel--or stop, as it were--in his The Three Cities trilogy about Pierre Froment, a Catholic priest in the unfortunate position of losing his faith. Pierre joins the pilgrimage to Lourdes in part to assist his beloved Marie, who has suffered from paralysis since a nasty fall from a horse several years previously, but also in part to regain his faith by completing his research on the life of Bernadette Soubirous. Unfortunately for Pierre, both his research and the supposed miracle that enables to Marie to walk again demolish his faith altogether--the former because he comes to view Bernadette's sufferings as, in large part, a waste; the latter because a doctor who believed that Marie's paralysis was psychological in origin managed to predict exactly how the "miracle" would go. A good chunk of the novel is devoted to Pierre relating Bernadette's biography to several other pilgrims, most of whom are enthralled. This narrative strategy seems closely indebted to J.-K. Huysmans' La-Bas (1891), the first novel in the Durtal tetralogy: Durtal, who is a doubter at the beginning, is writing a new biography of Gilles de Rais. Zola in fact flips the whole point of Huysmans' project around, since the Gilles de Rais narrative, loaded with horrors as it is, also represents the mystery of divine grace, and helps set Durtal down the path to his own conversion. (I assume that this is not news, but the secondary sources to which I have access don't discuss this connection.)
However, what also struck me about Lourdes is that the novel's "solution" to the problem of modern religious discourse is remarkably similar to that of my old friend Robert Elsmere's. In Robert Elsmere, the title character doesn't so much deliver conventional sermons or wander around proselytizing people as he simply tells them stories, both religious and secular. Oral storytelling rooted in sympathy transforms the audience's moral character, in stark contrast to the activity of Squire Wendover, a private reader isolated in his library. In Lourdes, Pierre initially sets out to read "one of those little works of propaganda issued from the Catholic printing presses and circulated in profusion throughout Christendom" (79); the book's obvious cheapness and material ugliness prefigures the kitschiness that Pierre will later encounter in the city. Moreover, although Pierre gets a few paragraphs into reading the pamphlet aloud, he soon gives up on account of "[t]he childish character of the narrative, its ready-made, empty phraseology," none of which speaks to the "tender affection and infinite pity" he feels (80). Out goes the pamphlet, then, and in comes Pierre's extemporaneous biographical narrative, based on his own research and, unlike the pamphlet, related in free indirect discourse. The implications are clear enough: Catholic didactic texts turn into the shoddy products of modern capitalism, their language as mass-produced as the knick-knacks littering Lourdes itself, whereas Pierre's researched but spontaneous story, rooted in affect instead of profit, makes his audience "captivated [...] by the touches of compassionate human feeling which Pierre introduced into his narrative" (88). The economy of such storytelling, as it were, is necessarily small-scale, since it relies so much on voice, presence, and the narrator's close relationship with his audience. It thus resists, once again, what the novel represents as the industrial-level production of religious sentiment at Lourdes. (It also implicitly resists the novel form itself--such storytelling cannot be mechanically produced for a mass readership.) At the same time, the FID complicates the story, as the reader often cannot tell what Pierre is thinking and what he is speaking--for example, presumably his critique of Bernadette's vision, which he identifies as essentially a collage of pre-existing Catholic miracle tales and images, is not relayed to his devout audience, but only revealed to the reader. This doubled narrative, which seems in some way to parody Catholic "reserve," is nevertheless part of the novel's own ambivalent attitude to Catholic faith, which it regards as outmoded but yet representative of humanity's desperate quest for "bliss for one and all" (489). Thus, Pierre does not believe in Marie's miracle, but he also does not think it right to deprive her of her belief in the miracle, either. Left hanging, he (like Robert Elsmere) can only imagine a "new religion" (488) must come into play to assuage humanity's need for the divine. Unlike Robert Elsmere, he ends the novel in this state of ambivalence, uncertain what the new religion might be, but equally unwilling to deprive the faithful of their comfort.
Christoph von Schmid, Genevieve: A Tale of Antiquity; Showing the Wonderful Ways of Providence in the Protection of Innocence (Catholic Publication Society, 1873). Translation of German children's novelist von Schmid's novel about Genevieve de Brabant. (eBay)
Alice Hoffman, The Marriage of Opposites (Simon & Schuster, 2016). Historical novel set in an early nineteenth-century Jewish community in the West Indies, with the protagonist being Rachel, mother of Camille Pissarro. (Lift Bridge)
Alan Haig, The Victorian Clergy (Croom Helm, 1984). Historical overview of, er, the Victorian clergy in an age of professionalization. (Amazon [secondhand])
...well, besides cleaning the house prior to departure for California.
1. I've got an article draft well under way. Given the usual length restrictions (this one is for a companion), I'm probably going to have to restrict its scope somewhat. In any event, I expect to have this one fully drafted by the end of July, given current progress.
2. Finishing up the background primary reading for another article. (We'll see how much of this I can get through in transit!) This is material that will probably get a few sentences, if that, but it's necessary for scene-setting purposes. I admit that the critical reading for this article is also doing some double-duty for a new course I'm teaching in the fall; I usually don't do that, but a) my chair asked for a new course, b) I had this article to write, and c) multiple figurative bird-killings with single stones commenced.
3. I just sent off one book review.
4. I have to make some minor corrections to another review this evening and send it back to the editors.
5. A short solicited article is currently experiencing the excitement of peer review. Of course, that means further revisions.
6. I need to revise an abstract and circulate it to the other authors of an edited collection I'm in. (Fortunately, this article already exists in draft form.)
7. Still doing some reading for a revise-and-resubmit I got earlier this year. I probably can't get to the revise part until later in the fall, though.
I'm recovering from the unusual experience of writing briefly about George Eliot, who is a great novelist and, therefore, not the sort of author I tend to post about on this blog. She is, however, the sort of author my editors will want to hear about. Now, that being said, some of my longstanding (long-suffering?) readers were wondering how I stand the strain of contemplating novelists like E. H. Dering, whose prose style always makes me want to consider switching careers to basketball commentator. So, first of all, one of the scholarly problems involved in the work I do is that there is little sense of canon: just because most Victorian religious fiction has been swept into the dustbin of the "popular" or "non-canonical" does not mean that Victorian religious fiction did not have its own canon. This canon shifted around, as canons do, but by the 1840s there was already a pretty good sense of who defined the genre (critics usually began the story with Hannah More). There are some big, fairly sweeping literary-historical accounts of religious fiction per se--Maison, Wolff--but they don't really map out which novelists were exerting more influence on other novelists. (For example, Maison sort of writes off E. C. Agnew entirely, and Wolff doesn't mention her at all, but her Geraldine is key to understanding how Catholic fiction develops at mid-century--far more so than Newman's Loss and Gain or Callista.) Second, then, this means that while I write about individual authors on the blog, in my more formal practice I'm interested in how lots of authors and their works interact and argue. I'm looking for the conversations; I'm also looking for the outliers. This is why I've been reading a lot of Dering. On the one hand, despite how terrible a novelist he is, he's experimenting with genres in ways that characterize a lot of Victorian Catholic fiction; like many of his contemporaries, Dering is interested in how certain narrative/genre expectations are implicitly, if not explicitly, coded Protestant. On the other hand, Dering is an outlier, because as a novelist, he's one of Newman's very few imitators (more emphasis on process than on doctrine--in fact, Dering's characters often convert before they know anything about Catholic theology at all!). My wailing and gnashing of teeth is usually reserved for individual authors; putting everything together, by contrast, is hugely enjoyable. And, more to the point, possibly useful for other people.
Louis Couperus, Eline Vere, trans. Ina Rilke (Archipelago, 2010). New translation of Couperus' 1889 novel about a young Dutch woman who finds herself increasingly frustrated by the confines of married life. (Amazon [secondhand])
The Child's Companion and Juvenile Instructor (1856). Bound volume of this Religious Tract Society children's periodical. (eBay)
Bound collection of tracts by Charles Henry Mackintosh (all G. Morrish). A privately-bound set of tracts about sin, salvation, the Bible, etc. by Mackintosh, a member of the Plymouth Brethren. This was a gift to a nurse from somebody named Bligh (no, not that one). (eBay)
Lionel Adey, Class and Idol in the English Hymn (University of British Columbia, 1988). Transatlantic study of nineteenth- and early twentieth century hymnals that attempts to identify who sang what when and where. (eBay)
Susan Drain, The Anglican Church in Nineteenth-Century Britain: Hymns Ancient and Modern (1860-1875) (Edwin Mellen, 1989). Analyzes the publishing history, dissemination, and significance of the Anglican hymnal Hymns Ancient and Modern (1861). (Amazon [secondhand])
G.F.A. Best, Temporal Pillars: Queen Anne's Bounty, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and the Church of England (Cambridge, 1964). History of the expanding functions of Queen Anne's Bounty, a fund initially intended to assist impoverished Anglican priests. (Amazon [secondhand])
I awoke this morning and was promptly puzzled by an op-ed from Inside Higher Education, a state of mind I more commonly associate with op-eds at the CoHE.
What I did not find puzzling: the paperwork (I need to fill out paperwork for every new course I propose); the courses with "umbrella" titles (yes, we have those); the assessment procedure; the working with higher-ups; etc. These are normative procedures on my campus, and I imagine that they're normative procedures on many other campuses as well.
What I found mildly puzzling: removing pre-reqs (OK, in some instances, but...).
What I found entirely baffling:The idea that you could have two hundred students in Principles of Poetry and have a successful course. Oh, I'm sure there are universities that have two hundred students in Principles of Poetry, or whatever you'd like to call it, but they would also have to have discussion sections and multiple TAs. My department has no TAs. We would not put two hundred students into Intro to Poetry, because that would make no pedagogical sense. It was not clear from the article that Bugeja quite understood what's necessary for good teaching outside his own department.
Bugeja's ideas about how the Faculty Senate should control curriculum were also a little odd, the first because it's old rather than new, the second because it's not workable. Any change to the major that led to duplication would be whacked down in committee even before it got to the entire senate (I know this, because I've both been on the UCC and I'm currently a senator). Moreover, the danger of cross-major duplication seems to me, from my own observations at least, to affect small majors more than big ones--the obvious case being women's studies and ethnic studies departments, which are usually both extremely tiny (despite frequent outbursts of angst from academic observers further to my right) and likely to see their course material appearing elsewhere. It's possible to get around this by cross-listing, which then obviates the duplication issue somewhat.
Now, having the UCC approve every new course...no. No no no no no. No. Absolutely not. We have a special committee set aside to handle General Education courses specifically, and that committee is a huge burden. Similarly, the UCC handles significant changes--new majors, changes to major requirements, new tracks or programs, new certificates. That committee is also a massive time-sink, with dozens of applications to approve, and I teach at a very small college. We could not approve, or even look at, every new course. I can imagine that a very tiny SLAC could be hands-on with new courses like that, but a committee at a small SUNY like mine would simply implode under the weight.