“The Lady and Our Lady: Galadriel as a ‘Reflexion’ of Mary,” A Signum Thesis Theatre on Tolkien & Catholicism by Mickey Corso (Mon, Aug 3, 3pm EST)

I am very excited to announce that Signum University MA student Mickey Corso will present his thesis “The Lady and Our Lady: Galadriel as a ‘Reflexion’ of Mary” to the public on Monday, Aug 3rd, at 3pm Eastern. Besides the fact that a strong consideration of J.R.R. Tolkien and his Roman Catholic context along this line is sorely needed, I am proud to be Mickey’s Supervisor. Mickey will spend a few minutes presenting his ideas, and then he will respond to questions from the audience in an interactive Thesis Theater. I hope that you can join in, ask some difficult and helpful questions, and deepen your connection to Tolkien’s works.

The event is free and open, but limited to 100 participants. Sign up here: https://signumuniversity.org/event/thesis-theater-mickey-corso/.

Thesis Abstract

J.R.R. Tolkien asserted that

“The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision” (Letters 142).

In particular, Tolkien noted the influence of his devotion to the Virgin Mary on the character of Galadriel:

“I think it is true that I owe much of this character to Christian and Catholic teaching and imagination about Mary” (Letters 320).

While many Tolkien scholars and critics have affirmed or argued against this connection, there is no comprehensive presentation of specific evidence for Tolkien’s claim through a close reading of the text in the context of Tolkien’s English Catholic piety and worldview.

This thesis investigates such evidence and demonstrates a reciprocal applicability, or reflexion, between Tolkien’s primary world devotion to Mary and his secondary world Galadriel. After articulating what Marian pious practices were widespread in early twentieth century Catholicism in England and considering the probability that Tolkien engaged in such practices, the thesis traces Galadriel’s depiction through the manuscript history into final form and relates it to prayers and teachings current in Marian piety to shed light on Galadriel’s development.

About the Presenter

Michael J. Corso, Ph.D. is a lifelong Tolkien fan who is excited to have earned a degree at Signum University. He also has a doctorate in Theology and Education from Boston College and is currently the chair of the theology department at Catholic Memorial School in Boston—where he regularly brings up Tolkien to his students. “Mickey,” as he is known to family and friends, is married to Catherine, his wife of 35 years, and has two daughters, Rebecca and Elise, who are themselves enthusiasts of all things Middle-earth.

About Signum Thesis Theaters

Our graduate students write a thesis at the end of their degree program, exploring a topic of their choice. The Thesis Theatre is where they can present their thesis to the Signum community and wider public, enabling them to explain their research in detail, and respond to questions from the audience.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum (A Review and 10-Minute Book Talk)

So Much Love is an exquisitely crafted book. It is the story of a twentysomething mature student, Catherine, a lover of books who finds her life patterned after the creative and tragic story of a local poet who was killed just as her first collection was about to be published. The wispy threads of connection between the reader and the poet become hard knots when Catherine is taken at night. Her captor, whose character never quite comes into focus, keeps Catherine in darkness, using her for his frayed desires until she is in danger of wasting away. When the other victim she shares the darkness and pain with dies, all Catherine has left are memories of her loving husband and the poems of the local poet—a woman also lost to male violence.

Where Hollywood has to end a story, Rosenblum has the courage to begin, so that the question is not simply “will Catherine be rescued,” but “how much of Catherine was taken?” While the diction of So Much Love is free and open and varied, it remains a difficult book to read. Like Michael Crummey’s fiction, though less local and with more distinctive colour-patterns in the fabric, Rosenblum gives the reader no quarter for escape. The warp and weft of intensity and distance keep the reader near to the text and knitted to the protagonist’s story.

This connection with Catherine is all the more striking because of Rosenblum’s sophisticated experiment with voice, perspective, and time. We do not get the inside of Catherine’s experience for most of the novel, and when we do, she is herself tired of the constant inner monologue of fear and rage. There are many voices and points of view in the novel—not a patchwork quilt, but a pattern that moves in and out of the centre.

While the voice is sometimes more successful than the experimental point of view—and Rosenblum really can give distinctive textures to her characters’ lives—the entire, intricate, multi-linear narrative structure works to create intimacy with the characters—something that many of the postmodern authors failed to invite in me. Though the seams between the stories sometimes feel mismatched at times—though I believe the novel is designed to require something of the reader—the character life of So Much Love neither disappears into a monochromatic haze nor pixelates into meaninglessness.

Discerning what So Much Love means is more difficult for me than describing the literary quality and structure of the book. I can’t help making the parallel with Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych, which one of the characters reads for her high school English class. While Ivan Ilych is itself an experiment in writing about the inner life, there is a nearly linear nature to its interiority. It offers a question—what can this life of beauty and suffering possibly mean?—and an answer, I believe. Our generation cannot abide by answers to questions in fiction, but we seem to be yearning for action. To that extent, So Much Love asks Tolstoy’s question, but says in response: one must live. For all the violence and fear and sadness, there does seem to me to be an invitation to life here.

This beautifully designed novel by Canadian short story writer Rebecca Rosenblum is a startling literary discovery. So Much Love is less Doris Lessing and more Vincent Lam. What makes So Much Love a more effective novel than the latter’s Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures is not merely Rosenblum’s pattern-master ability to weave together short stories into a single novel. Rosenblum creates a tight emotional connection with characters—not just the good ones or the suffering ones, but also the characters who are insipid or horrifying. As it sat on my bedside table, I never loved the title, So Much Love, Yet, it captures with literary depth the complex material of life.

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Hugo Award 2020: Best Novel Roundtable

For more than 65 years, fans have been gathering at Worldcon and selecting what they think is the best science fiction or fantasy work of the year. Unlike other award programmes–like the Nebula awards, which are chosen by writers, or awards chosen by professional panels–the Hugo Awards are chosen precisely by fans, members of the World Science Fiction Convention. As such, the Hugos can sway with the cultural moment, and in recent years has been subject to some controversy.

The proof of the sauce is in the tasting, however, and the Hugo Awards have tagged some of the most important books of the last century, including Frank Herbert’s Dune, James Blish’s A Case of Conscience, Robert A. Heinlein‘s Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin, Ringworld by Larry Niven, Neuromancer by William Gibson, Ursula Vernon’s Digger, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Orson Scott Card‘s Ender’s Game and Speaker for the Dead, Neil Gaiman‘s Sandman and American Gods, Nnedi Okorafor’s gorgeous novella Binti–which I recently reviewed–and a stunning triple win for N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth Trilogy.

The Hugo Award #1 choice is not always the book that resonates in the future, and sometimes books take a while to get into the hearts of readers. But the Hugo Awards have a way of highlighting authors like J.K. Rowling, Samuel R. Delany, George R.R. Martin, James Tiptree, Jr., Philip K. Dick, Octavia A. Butler, Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jordan, Charles Stross, Robert J. Sawyer, Nalo Hopkinson, Isaac Asimov, David Brin, Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, John Crowley, Arthur C. Clarke, Jerry Pournelle, and Roger Zelazny.

This year, the convention is online due to COVID-19, and the list of nominees is tempting for readers. In the novel category, it is an all-woman cast, I believe, which is a comment all on its own.

Some of us teacherly-readerly folk at Signum University thought it would be fun and perhaps even useful to get together to discuss the best novel list.

Each reviewer will take five minutes to introduce their novel and talk about what they liked or didn’t like about it. We will then open up for a wider discussion, taking questions and comments from the audience. In Battle of the Books style, the audience will then vote on which novel they most want to read, and which they think should win the prestigious Best Novel Hugo Award. The actual winner will be announced at CoNZealand, shortly after our event!

Want to follow what’s new and exciting in the world of science-fiction and fantasy? Need help deciding what to read next? Planning to move to a different planet and would like to read stories set on other planets to help you prepare? Then join us at 7pm Eastern on July 31st for our non-affiliated Hugo Awards evening, when a panel of Science-fiction and Fantasy readers will each talk about one of the shortlisted titles in the Best Novel category of the 2020 Hugo Awards!

Hope to see you there!

Time and Date: July 31, 2020 – 7:00-8:00 pm EDT. To Sign Up click here.

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Nnedi Okorafor Deep Future Story for the Moment, Binti

What a discovery Binti has been for me! In Binti (2015), Home (2017), and The Night Masquerade (2018), Dr. Nnedi Okorafor has given us a living, vibrant, complex character in literary SF prose.

Binti is the award-winning novella of a young African woman with a special gift enhanced and challenged by her rugged stubbornness, deep love, and dynamic intelligence. Binti’s community is closely modelled on the Himba people of southwest Africa, including the special braiding of her hair and the red-clay otjize that coats her skin for beauty, protection, and an embodied sense of culture. Binti is a “master harmonizer,” someone who is able to use a genius for mathematics, a training in advanced technological development, and the customs of her people to “speak” into the world, bringing people and worlds together in harmony or challenge.

In the first book, Binti sneaks off to be the first of her tribe to attend the interstellar university, Oomza Uni, which fills a planet far from the deserts of Africa. While in flight, Binti and her entire cohort from Earth are killed by Medusa-like beings (the Meduse) who are enemies of the dominant ethnic group in Binti’s area, the Khoush (Ethiopian descendants perhaps, or Northeast Africa?). All of her Khoush peers and professors are killed, but because of an ancient technology and her own wits, Binti lives.

As a harmonizer, Binti finds herself, in this story and the following ones, drawn into the role of peacemaker. The role involves great risk. One risk is that Binti is put in mortal danger and significant pain a number of times. But there are deeper risks. Binti is alienated from her peers, her family, her homeland, and her sense of self. Each time she works as a harmonizer, her identity grows more complex, troubled, and strange. Her sense of personhood gets drawn into the deep past, into the concerns of honour and courage of different peoples, and into the physiology of alien beings. The series is less about the texture of what I call “deep futurism,” or a particular set of adventures. Instead, the Binti trilogy is about the title character and her sense of self in a mysterious universe.

While Binti’s world is far into the future and involves complex identity matrices, the series is more in Octavia Butler‘s tradition than N.K. Jemisin‘s, in my reading. As she creates or receives biological changes that innervate symbiotic relationships with other people or species, these changes shake her–and our–understanding of what it means to be human. In this sense, Okorafor’s work is an important exploration of transhumanism. The Binti series works beautifully as a literary version of the Ship of Theseus Paradox, exploring the question of personhood and individuality, while also troubling our understanding of how to relate to the “Other”–something that science fiction is brilliant at that Okorafor, Butler, and Jemisin take to new heights of beauty and interest.

Binti comes to me as a gift emerging from the current moment. I found N.K. Jemisin and Octavia Butler with no sense of who they were as people, but I hunted out Nnedi Okorafor’s work because she is a Nigerian-American SF writer. I may have stumbled onto her work eventually, as I heard about Lagoon in researching Afrofuturism and heard Okorafor’s name on CBC. But I wouldn’t have hunted down the first book, Binti, one the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella. It’s not an award category that I pay attention to, apparently to my own detriment!

While I discovered Binti because it was recommended as an example of Black women writing SF, it has none of the “model book” syndrome that can occur in the warp and weft of social movements–particularly if they are struggling out of a space of limitation. Binti is an intricately imagined character with a beautifully crafted book tucked in around her. And although three African tribes seem to make up all that is left of Terran-Instersteller relations in this imagined future, and though Binti’s own gift as a “harmonizer” could have been overplayed, there is no misty-eyed romanticism here. Binti is fierce in peace as in justice, rugged and independent and yet rooted deeply in tradition and family. Okorafor uses the Himba people as a model for the root of Binta’s deep future identity. She, like her people, have flaws and limitations and things to learn, but these flaws are written in a way to quicken the pulse of the reader and to help Binti find her own way.

What a discovery!

I know I have glowed quite a bit in this review. Though I am thrilling with the experience of reading, it isn’t that the series is perfect. The experimental use of voice works pretty well, though some of the shifts are less elegant than others. It is at times difficult to keep track of, particularly as we are introduced to new worlds through discovery or waking. Pacing-wise, the three books work far better as a single, moderately-long novel. Beyond the fact that voracious SF readers will respond well to the 400-page version, the series of heights work well as a character-driven (rather than plot-driven) episodic novel. The three-story bundle also tempers an inordinately long denouement in The Night Masquerade. That said, if I was thinking of adaptation, I’d be optioning it for a Netflix-style serial rather than a blockbuster film. I hope it happens: Binti could live far past these few pages.

So this is a good book. It has such a nice script; living characters leap off the page. The Binti cycle also hits so many of the notes of today: Afrofuturism, Deep Futurism, Black Women as a force in “hard” science fiction, feminism, local and global identity, race, religion, and culture, transhumanism, and intersectionality. Binti is a powerful book for the moment.

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Neil Gaiman on Discovering the Author in Narnia (and a note on beards)

I love this little clip by Neil Gaiman about “the book that made me an author.” While Gaiman is one of the most important fantasy authors of our age and a great reader in his own right, there is a perception that he resists C.S. Lewis. This might be because they have a different worldview, or have different audiences (except perhaps in The Graveyard Book or Coraline), or because of his infamous short story, “The Problem Of Susan.”

And yet, I think we can see the true appreciation in this lovely moment:

“It was the first time I ever realized that somebody was really writing this stuff. He would do things like parenthetical asides, put these things in brackets. And I could go, ‘there’s somebody here. There’s an author. He’s doing this!’”

There is also an important note about beards. I hope you enjoy this piece!

And here, Neil Gaiman goes a little deeper:

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L.M. Montgomery, the Radio, and Nostalgia in the Podcast Age

This is a piece of writing I have been working on this spring. I even managed to pull in J.R.R. Tolkien on this reflection, and had to restrain myself there. The way writers of the post-WWI age both resisted technological progress and set the stage for the future is worth deeper study. You can read an adapted, more focussed version on the L.M. Montgomery Institute website as a launch of the MaudCast, which I have had the pleasure of hosting. I’m a little more open here about my anxieties about drawing Montgomery up into our new technologies, but also hopeful. The MaudCast teaser at the bottom plays off the same theme. 

L.M. Montgomery, the Radio, and Nostalgia in the Podcast Age

Reading L.M. Montgomery’s journals and thinking of our current COVID-19 season, I have wondered if the Spanish Flu spurred on the desire for the radio. In WWI, the radio was a piece of technology used only in war and industry. Word of mouth, letters, and the daily papers were the only ways that people at home could connect to the global moment. I think of Rilla of Ingleside, the final book in the Anne series and the most important piece of fiction for an at-home experience of the Great War. As the Four Winds children find themselves drawn into the conflict overseas, the Blythe family’s kitchen becomes a war room with maps and news clippings and dispatches to and from Prince Edward Island’s rear-guard action.

Yet, although we imagine the ‘20s as the age of jazz humming through every street, the decade began with nearly empty airwaves. As social distancing in 1918-1920 America kept people away from church and market and gossip from town, the need for news and entertainment at home becomes pressing. I do not know how many people believed the conspiracy theory of the time that radio waves caused the Spanish Flu. But in terms of technological adoption, everyday folk took up the radio almost as quickly as they did the Internet.

While L.M. Montgomery was not an early adopter of the radio, she records her initial encounter with the idea of it in her journal entry of Dec 16, 1922:

The papers nowadays are filled with radio. Dr. Shier has a set and he told me recently that last Sunday morning he heard a sermon preached in Pittsburgh, Pa. in the morning and one in Chicago in the evening (Selected Journals 3:105).

Montgomery’s reaction is quite mixed:

It is all very wonderful—and I find it a little depressing. Is it because I’m getting on in life that all these wonderful inventions and discoveries, treading on each other’s heels, give me a sense of weariness and a longing to go back to the slower years of old. Doubtless that has something to do with it. But I do really think we are rushing on rather fast. It keeps humanity on tiptoe. And all these things don’t make the world or the people in it any happier. But I think this will go on for two or three hundred years—I mean the flood of great discoveries. Then probably the Zeit Geist will get tired and take a rest for a few centuries and allow humanity to rest with him. But those of us living now have to speed on with him willy nilly (Selected Journals 3:105).

Nearly a year later, in October 1923, the Montgomery-Macdonalds drove to Uxbridge, ON to listen to the radio—music in Chicago, IL and a speech in Pittsburgh, PA (Selected Journals 3:150), almost eerily predicted in her previous entry. Montgomery thought it was “a very marvelous thing” that “will probably revolutionize the world in another generation” (150-1). As above, she admits to feeling unsettled about the idea of the radio more than the actual experience of it.

Montgomery was not alone among artists in resisting new technological development, which seemed to them to pummel on just for the sake of progress.

When told that factory chimneys and motor-cars were sings of “real life,” J.R.R. Tolkien mocked the idea. These inventions are “pathetically absurd” and “obsolete” compared with living things like elm trees and horses and even centaurs and dragons. Tolkien, like the Four Winds children in Rilla who are about his age, was a product of the war of progress and technology, WWI. You can feel the frustration Tolkien had with the dehumanizing result of endless progress in his poem, “Mythopoeia”:

the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name

And, yet, technology frames Montgomery’s Anne series—even moreso than a later series like Emily. While Matthew’s buggy and the sorrel mare are part of Island culture from time out of mind, Anne Shirley arrives at Bright River on the 5:30 train—a technology that has changed the literal and political landscape of Prince Edward Island. Telephone wires in Charlottetown signal to the young Queen’s scholar Anne that she is far from home. The telephone becomes a lifesaver when Dr. Blythe practices in Glen St. Mary’s and the Four Wind’s Harbour—and it works pretty well for “news” of all sorts—whether from the war or the village.

Still, Montgomery wants to slow the progress down, keeping the radio out of her books until the ‘30s and letting the telephone sit at the back of the stories. These technologies are supposed to save time, but Montgomery says that instead, they “only fill it more breathlessly full” (Selected Journals 3:105). While the young may find some excitement in new technologies, as she approaches fifty, Montgomery looks back to the “old ‘90’s with a feeling that they were a nice unhurried leisurely time”:

But perhaps that is only because I lived in a remote little country place eleven miles from a railway. Even today life is very unhurried and peaceful in Cavendish. Yes, I daresay that is the explanation (Journals 3:105).

Anne recalls a similar feeling on a phone call to Diana:

“I can’t realize that we really have telephones in Avonlea now. It sounds so preposterously up-to-date and modernish for this darling, leisurely old place” (Anne’s House of Dreams 2).

“Realize” is Montgomery’s privileged word for what we might call “letting it sink in.” I have never felt this way about technology—never in awe or distant from it. I have felt, though, how time has become “breathlessly full,” and find myself longing some days for simpler times. I keep a small plot of land in New Glasgow, just south of Cavendish, with an escapist dream of disappearing from the world to the countryside. The time is not right–hobbit holes are not as cheap as you might imagine to build–but the longing is there.

Montgomery was right that rapid progress would increase in the coming decades as we have seen technological developments in communication, travel, warfare, engineering, and education. Until pretty recently, the escalation was escalating. Besides stale-dating our age of progress to two or three centuries, Montgomery also makes a prediction about how we will communicate in the future:

In a generation or two letters will be obsolete. Everyone will talk to absent friends the world over by radio. It will be nice; but something will be lost with letters. The world can’t eat its cake and have it too (Journals 3:105).

If we can tint her looking glass a bit, we can see how Montgomery is prophetic. Letter-writing is a thing of the past in many places in the world and for most people—though I do send my nephew old postcards from time to time to make him smile. However, it is an intensely tech-based age, isn’t it? Digital natives are comfortable connecting through screens, so that thumb-texting does what letters used to do, creating a stand-in for the in-person experience. Letters are gone but not the experience of letter writing, it seems (see here for “The Art of Letter Writing in the Digital Age“).

And if we can extend Montgomery’s image of “radio” to digital spaces, our Zoom and Skype generation has gone far past what ham radio operators ever could have imagined. I think this is what has made podcasting as an art form grow so rapidly. Blogs continue to grow, there is still a place for print media, and I still want to read a good old-fashioned book. But even in an age with fingertip-ready video content, there is a return to the voice in the podcast world. Perhaps this is, in a sense, an attempt to “talk to absent friends the world over by radio” that Montgomery predicted.

It is partly because of this connection that we have decided to launch the MaudCast, a podcast of the L.M. Montgomery Institute. Recognizing Montgomery’s warning that technology in and of itself cannot make us happier, we want to make good use of the “airwaves” a century after her discovery of the radio. In the MaudCast’s quest to discover innovative scholarship about the life and works of Lucy Maud Montgomery, we welcome to the microphone leading academics, emerging scholars, local researchers, and imaginative readers and writers from around the world.

Given Montgomery’s yearning, I wonder what she might say about this endeavour. As the host of the MaudCast, I must admit that it is a worrisome question!

Our hope for this podcast, though, is to bring the best of Montgomery’s created worlds to lovers of her stories throughout the world. In this way, I hope it is a kind of slowing down, a going back and a kind of rest as much as it is a moving forward with the times. Because the airwaves of the 2020s really are, to use Maud’s terms, “marvellous.”

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Is L.M. Montgomery Canada’s Author?

In the L.M. Montgomery feature in Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series, novelist Jane Urquhart describes how Montgomery’s novels created a literary legacy in her small-town family. Urquhart’s grandmother’s Anne books “electrified” her mother’s childhood, adding “meaning and intensity even to the most ordinary of its attributes” (144). Montgomery’s ability to create stories that transform the mundane into the magical has caught the imagination of millions of readers the world over.

Among the hockey players, politicians, and scientists, there are other Canadians in this series, such as Jewish novelist Mordecai Richler, and Stephen Leacock, for whom the pen was an outlet of the tongue. There are so few authors in the series, it seems, because most of our great Canadian writers are simply not dead enough. There is a stellar cast of Canadian authors working in this generation wit a global readership, including Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Yann Martel, Miriam Toews, Alice Munro, Lawrence Hill, Douglas Coupland, William Gibson, Michael Crummey, and Guy Gabriel Kay. I suspect the 2050 version of the Extraordinary Canadians series will have a more literary tinge.

As I mentally walking through my CanLit bookshelf, though–which includes local authors of depth and beauty that the world is unaware of–I can’t help but wonder which author is quintessentially Canadian. I don’t just mean any one particular category, like the fact that Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry makes him “in” because it is set in Toronto but he is “out” because he often lives and works oversees. And I don’t quite mean global presence, though I suppose Margaret Atwood–friends call her “Peggy”–is something of a Canadian ambassador and speculative fiction superstar, and Alice Munro as a noble laureate is someone of particular note.

What I mean is something less definable and more deeply hued. When I ask, “Who is Canada’s author?”, I am asking what writer holds the best of Canada together with a distinctive presence and leaves a mark that is quintessentially Canadian.

I know it’s a terrible award category, but I still think it comes down to two figures. In a distant second is Robert Munsch, who has probably sold more books than any living author and is one of the more dynamic children’s authors in the world. There are a dozen books I can recall that are full of energy and humour, but The Paper Bag Princess remains my favourite. You simply have to be impressed with someone who can write a book that will make even prison guards cry (of course, I mean Love You Forever).

In the end, though he is very popular, Robert Munsch is less distinctively Canadian than many of the authors I’ve named. Which is why it comes down, for me, to Lucy Maud Montgomery.

L.M. Montgomery–friends called her “Maud“–is undoubtedly Canada’s bestselling author. With dozens of translations, Anne of Green Gables has sold about 50 million copies, and was a global hit within weeks of publication in 1908. Often set in a relatively vague Victorian-Georgian context, Montgomery’s books capture the rural and small-town feeling of Canada’s first half-century as a country. Her characters seem to grow out of the Canadian land and sea, sometimes in rural East coast accents, and sometimes drawing on Scotch- and French-Canadian folklore. Though some of the later adult novels are less intimately connected to place and voice, her books capture the essence of Canada.

And though she lived in Ontario for half her life, Montgomery was a proud Prince Edward Islander in her heart and her stories. As I have travelled throughout the world, people know about our little Island precisely because of how Montgomery has so vividly painted a portrait of our world. It’s an imaginary world, of course, but one that is meant to make us laugh and cry, to long for simpler days and hope for romantic endings. Though I like to think that PEI is a bit more than mundane, Montgomery has made it an extraordinary place in her fiction and in the way we live our culture in the shadow of her books.

In the 2050 version of this ill-defined “Who is Canada’s author?” contest, it may be someone else. We may be celebrating one of the “greats” I listed above, or we may be nominating an emerging or unknown author that captures the diversity of Canada in its second century of life. Perhaps it will be one of our First Nations authors, someone who can evince for us something of the largely untold story of Canada’s indigenous experience. Whatever the case, Montgomery will still be in the running even as some of the bestsellers of today and tomorrow slip back into history. There is something about her best work that just continues to live and continues to be simply Canadian.

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The MaudCast S01E03: Kate Scarth and the L.M. Montgomery Institute #LMMI2020

Hi folks, here the third episode of the MaudCast, the podcast of the L.M. Montgomery Institute. In the MaudCast’s quest to discover innovative scholarship about the life and works of Lucy Maud Montgomery, we welcome to the microphone leading academics, emerging scholars, local researchers, and imaginative readers and writers from around the world.

This interview–which readers should know was the very first one recorded, though the third scheduled for broadcast–is with Dr. Kate Scarth. Dr. Scarth is the Chair of L.M. Montgomery Studies at UPEI, where she works closely with the L.M. Montgomery Institute, and is also an Assistant Professor of Applied Communication, Leadership, and Culture (an innovative digital humanities group). She is particularly interested in the relationship between story and place and works on writers from Jane Austen to Maud Montgomery. Her current projects include yourlmmontgomerystory.com, which was featured in June 2020 on CBC.

I should also note that Kate is a founding co-producer of the MaudCast, and as Chair is sort of my “boss” in this project! We’re also friends and have been chatting about Montgomery for some months now–sometimes veering into the Romantic world where she is a specialist and can fill me in on the “doings” of the period beyond my beloved Jane Austen, and sometimes bounding into Narnia and children’s literature. Kate is a “space” specialist, someone who thinks about books in very tactile, located ways. I hope you enjoy this little peek behind the veil of the LMMI, and hear more about our encounter with great books.

As always, I hope that you enjoy our work at A Pilgrim in Narnia and the MaudCast. If so, please like and share, and follow me on Twitter @BrentonDana and on Instagram @bdickieson. You can follow the MaudCast on Spotify, Podbean, or your favourite podcast station (we’re still working on Apple Podcasting). You can find the MaudCast on Twitter and Instagram @LMMIMaudCast, and find the L.M. Montgomery Institute online or on twitter, @LMMI_PEI, including the premium online research space Kindred Spaces and The Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies. You can follow the L.M. Montgomery and Vision Forum all year at this link.

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L.M. Montgomery Articles on A Pilgrim In Narnia #lmmi2020 #LMMontgomery

Including posts for the 2020 Vision Forum, the launch of the Maudcast, and my 2018 spring L.M. Montgomery series, I have published more than two dozen notes and articles on Montgomery and her work! And I still have a few in mind that I haven’t gotten to yet–including some notes about growing up in “the Land of Anne,” so to speak. As we close off the 2020 conference week, I thought I would gather together the Montgomery posts so far.

Published Papers

Thoughts from Reading Montgomery

At its core, A Pilgrim in Narnia is a readers’ blog, capturing the experience of reading great books. I love books, and when I write I want to see something of the heart, the inside of a text or a text-world. Most of my posts about Montgomery, then, are about things that come of reading her works–sometimes while reading others, sometimes in thinking about her life story, and sometimes close reading of her novels or poetry.

Book Reviews

I don’t do a tonne of book reviews, often preferring to write a quick note or a larger reflection. Of my book reviews, they are often background bits like my 10 Minute Book Talk about Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women or notes about my reading experience, like “Why I Love Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice … Even Though I’m a Guy.” Still, I have done some Montgomery related book reviews:

L.M. Montgomery Resources

This is still a new area for me, but I have three main links–two for resources I developed and one that I posted about:

You can also read about the issues that Cavendish had in 2019 storms when it comes to Montgomery’s homestead. See here, and especially here where I talk about Montgomery’s love of trees in more detail.

Notes About Research and Conferences

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The MaudCast S01E02: Laura Leden and Nordic Translations of L.M. Montgomery #LMMI2020

I’m pleased to post the second episode of the MaudCast, the podcast of the L.M. Montgomery Institute. In the MaudCast’s quest to discover innovative scholarship about the life and works of Lucy Maud Montgomery, we welcome to the microphone leading academics, emerging scholars, local researchers, and imaginative readers and writers from around the world.

My second interview is with Laura Leden. Laura is a PhD candidate in translation studies at the University of Helsinki. Laura is multilingual, with a good facility for her native Finnish, her family’s Swedish, international English, and some other languages as well. Laura working on the final stages of her thesis on adaptation in translations of girls’ fiction from English into Swedish and Finnish, including translations of Montgomery’s Emily trilogy. Swedish was actually the first international translation of Anne of Green Gables, all the way back in 1909, so this is a super fascinating topic. Alongside her PhD project, Laura has written several journal articles and book chapters on the translations of Montgomery’s books and been a regular speaker at the L.M. Montgomery conferences for the last ten years.

For today’s episode, you will want to check out Laura’s beautifully curated “L.M. Montgomery Nordic” Instagram page, where she shows various Scandinavian translations of Montgomery’s fiction, @lmmontgomerynordic (her personal Instagram account is @laurairenel and you can find her website here). Laura also has a blog post coming out tomorrow on the 2020 Vision Forum, “The Nordic Vision of L.M. Montgomery in Book Covers as Featured on Instagram,” which chapters something of the plenary talk she had intended to give live at the Montgomery conference in Prince Edward Island. See more about this podcast at the Forum, and I hope you enjoy!

As always, I hope that you enjoy our work at A Pilgrim in Narnia and the MaudCast. If so, please like and share, and follow me on Twitter @BrentonDana and on Instagram @bdickieson. You can follow the MaudCast on Spotify, Podbean, or your favourite podcast station (we’re still working on Apple Podcasting). You can find the MaudCast on Twitter and Instagram @LMMIMaudCast, and find the L.M. Montgomery Institute online or on twitter, @LMMI_PEI, including the premium online research space Kindred Spaces and The Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies. You can follow the L.M. Montgomery and Vision Forum all year at this link.

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