Article Round-Up 1

The Fandom Pairing Name: Blends and the Phonology-Orthography Interface

(names, Vol. 60 No. 4, December 2012, 231–43)

Cara M. DiGirolamo

Cornell University, USA

This article outlines the somewhat obscure (hidden?) linguistic reasons fans come to the consensuses we do about smush pairing names. I’ve never been in (or I’ve only lightly been in) fandoms/pairings that used smush/smoosh/portmanteau names (there’s a whole variable aesthetic politics about whether you’re the sort of fandom/pairing that does them), so while I know a fair amount about how fans build literary/interpretive/nomenclature consensus in communities, I’m also reading this with something of an outsider’s eye. The article’s good at accomplishing its quite discrete project, and worth checking out if the mechanics of fan language adoption and consensus are something you’re interested in or are touching on in your own work. The abstract is harder-going than the text proper, which is quite readable even for a non-linguistics person like myself. It feels very mature for a grad student article–but then it’s not my field, and so I might be a touch wowed by a technical vocabulary I don’t understand. I can’t say whether it’s a great linguistics article, though it seems to be a very capable (and perhaps fresh) discussion of how word blends work. I would call it a good fanstudies article, in that it brings a solid analytical perspective to bear on fannish material/communities, and contributes something new and salient to the field–a refreshing change from the regular diet of fanthropology/demographics-crunching pieces.


The Outlandish Jane: Austen and Female Identity in Victorian Women’s Magazines

Victorian Periodicals Review, Volume 47, Number 2, Summer 2014,pp. 255-273 (Article)

Marina Cano-López

University of Glasgow, School of Modern Languages and Cultures

This is a good primer on some of the changes in the reception and public perception of Jane Austen over time, and a very readable look at the uses people put the variously-constructed figure of Austen to in the century after the writer’s death. The question of the degree to which Austen is a satirist, and that of the degree of violence in her satire, are apparently caught up in a long, gendered debate about her as serious writer versus Angel of the House (despite a lot of biographical evidence that would seem to render this reading difficult to maintain).

I think, unwittingly, I’ve formed my own Idea of Austen from Woolf’s Room of One’s Own, and it surprises me to see people so ‘misreading’ her–though clearly Woolf’s and my Austen are equally constructions (if, I hope, more historically-inflected ones). Maybe I’ve not sufficiently credited Woolf as a biographer. She could be to Austen what Chesterton is to Dickens–a good writer capable of piercing expression who really GETS major things about the writer they’re talking about, unencumbered by fidelity to the family’s legacy-building (albeit possessed of their own interests). It’s silly to say, but I also quite like Woolf’s Flush.

The footnotes remind us that ‘Brontë famously dis-missed Austen’s work as being “without poetry,” further remarking that the “passions are perfectly unknown to her.”’ I’m in the middle of reading Austen’s juvenilia, and I sort of wish Bronte could have had access to it. I think she would have read Austen’s ‘gentleness’ differently if she could have seen that it was a maturity and sympathy Austen worked for and came to, having passed through some youthful high-scorn and some keen nastiness towards the Romance and its cliches. Northanger alone can’t really effectively convey Austen’s wrangling with the models available to her, and I find models of ‘control’ (proposed by X in the introduction to the Folio edition of her minor worlds–he discusses her progression from juvenilia to novels as a ‘curbing’ and ‘control’ of this satiric impulse, as if Austen’s more nuanced reading of people and genres was always sitting there underneath) likewise inadequate to understanding Austen as a particular writer/person and the cultivated, worked quality of her broad-mindedness and evaluating tolerance. Bronte proposes that Austen doesn’t get Actual Feelings. Austen’s juvenilia shows that in fact Austen doesn’t have any time for the literary ways we talk about Actual Feelings, and their distance from how people live and experience emotion. Bronte and Austen are both trying to talk about the distance between literature and peoples’ emotional lives. Bronte’s going for big wrenching extremes and Austen is looking at the smallness of our big decisions, the smallness of our lives, the shifts that are upheavals and from the outside look like stirrings on the surface of the ocean, giving inadequate clues as to what’s going on underneath.

López references Kathryn Ledbetter’s ‘British Victorian Women’s Periodicals: Beauty, Civilization, and Poetry” (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), “which explores the role of poetry in nineteenth-century women’s magazines” If a fan studies person wanted to talk about fan poetry–a huge zine phenomenon that has now pretty much disappeared from fannish output–perhaps it’d be useful to look at this and SFF poetry, and maybe something about poetry and non-fanish zines (in the small magazine/indie poetry sense), and see how those streams interact.

Also referenced: Ward’s “A Charm in those Fingers”, which I now need to read.

Austen-Leigh emphasised, “In vain do I try to recall any word or expression of Aunt Jane’s that had reference to public events.” Memoir, 173. <–why would anyone have had an adult conversation around you when you were a small child? Why would you then remember that accurately? Sometimes Austen-Leigh makes me roll my eyes.

You could use this article productively in a bigger conversation about families and artists and legacies, and the various needs cultivations of different ideas of a person serve. Essentially Austen-Leigh was a nephew of Austen’s involved in a whitewashing hagiography that attempted to render his aunt the ULTIMATE in conservative Victorian ‘womanliness’. And you can see why a family’s truths and memories and public and scholarly and readerly truths so often clash, and how dubious it is that any of these is the custodian of the ultimate truth about a person and their work, and how little ‘but I remember when I was a kid she didn’t like, talk about the war so I guess she didn’t care’ counts–how fragile and partial the first-hand memory of a person is.

“As late as 1941, Mary Lascelles still complained about the patronising tone of male critics and the biographical orientation of their studies.” Interestingly Naomi Novik and I were talking about this on twitter in re fanstudies the other day–the extent to which the desire to talk about fan work as craft and to do anthropology/sociology work with fan communities takes away from the discussion of fan work *as art*–biography getting in the way of a study of art and delegitimizing its status as art, in a very gendered way.

Like the last paper, this one is particularly good undergraduate work.


Now here: where now? Magic as reality and as metaphor in the writing of Diana Wynne Jones

Catherine Butler

University of the West of England, Arts, Creative Industries and Education, Faculty Member

This is a good paper, but one I’m finding difficult to take stock of. (Oh, my gf’s just opened Power of Three–good timing.) Butler’s talking about what magic does and is and its relationship with reality in some of Jones’ books. I find the metaphor/metonym distinction Butler makes useful, but, as Butler herself suggests, difficult to uphold in re: Jones’ texts, wherein magic occupies a lot of shifting positions. There’s something that seems–obvious about the instability of this categorization. I’m not saying Butler’s thinking is obvious, but that it’s particularly difficult to get into what magic is and does in Jones work because I have a sense of it and convictions about it that I can’t easily parse academically. I think about Jones perhaps too much–in a writerly way? I think about how her books work and not what they’re doing? That’s not it either. Fuck.

Catherine Butler’s work is always really readable. I appreciate that Butler seems to treat her writing as literature, as something to be encountered and enjoyed as a reading experience–though there’s this little knick in her prose that can jangle me sometimes. She can omit some of the words I expect to find in her sentences as-written. It could be in part a stylistic choice,  Perhaps the effect of reading too much Alan Garner? :p Butler’s also very good at inserting the necessary qualification–I’ll want to argue with a point she’s made, and then come back and find she’s anticipated me by precisely using language in a way that makes simple contradiction difficult. Which is good, because that stands to provoke richer debates about the substance of her claims rather than their forms and degrees.

I like Butler’s gestures at the broader realm of fantasy, and further afield to other literature, histories and traditions, and theory. Not everyone in SFF bothers to do that, and it IS valuable and mature in scholarship. The overall rhythm (structure, ‘citationality’) of the piece is solid and pleasing.

“Jones’s work, for all its generosity of display, also has something of this obliqueness.” See I don’t think of Jones as an excessively generous writer? She often only tells you what you need to know–what she has decided you need to know. I admire her narrative power, but I’d only think of her as generous–on a continuum with someone like Garner, who’s not at ALL generous.

“The modernist writer Mary Butts once expressed the desire to write a book “to shew the relation of art to magic, & shew the artist as the true, because the oblique, adept” (Blondel 101).” This is a v good quote for the Charm thesis.



Reading Mildred Pierce as Maternal Melodrama

Pam Cook

University of Southampton

This essay introduced me to ‘maternal melodrama’ as a category. It takes the reader through film studies’ canon-formation process–the retroactive consensuses that form around modes or genres like film noir or melodrama. I’m not familiar with the texts under discussion, but this was still very readable, and I take its point about filmic paratexts being part of what comprises a film’s text.

Some interesting bits:

Steve Neale quotes literary critic Franco Moretti on the factors in certain stories that make the reader cry. Among them are timing—the awareness that much as we would like to change the outcome of events, it is too late—and powerlessness: ‘This is what makes one cry. Tears are always the product of powerlessness. They presuppose two mutually opposed facts: that it is clear how the present state of things should be changed—and that this change is impossible.’” reminiscent of how my friend Molly Katz finds characters being thwarted sad. I’m interested in reading this Moretti piece now. ([21] Franco Moretti, ‘Kindergarten’, in Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms, London: Verso, 1983: 162. Quoted in Steve Neale, ‘Melodrama and Tears’, Screen 27 (6), 1986: 6-23, p. 8.)

The nineteenth-century anthropologist J. J. Bachofen, whose work influenced Friedrich Engels and Walter Benjamin among others, drew on this [Persephone] myth to make a case for his theory of Mother-Right, which posited the existence of a pre-historic matriarchal society that was overturned in the emergence of masculine patriarchy.[22] For Bachofen, The Demeter/Persephone myth dramatised the demise of Mother-Right, but he also saw the overturning of Mother-Right, which involved maternal sacrifice, as the foundation of civilised society. I am not concerned with the credibility or otherwise of Bachofen’s thesis, but the persistence of the idea of matriarchal society in patriarchal institutions suggests a motive for the replaying of stories of maternal disempowerment in melodrama. Such stories, and the excessive emotion they generate, point to the significance of the overthrow of matriarchy in sustaining patriarchy. They also intimate the possibility of a social order governed by women while simultaneously denying it, producing the sense of loss and powerlessness that Neale/Moretti argue leads to tears.

The Demeter myth and Bachofen’s theory of Mother-Right are epitexts embedded in my reading of Mildred Pierce as subtext to support my preferred reading. Together with the subtexts produced by Todd Haynes, they help to explain the cultural significance of maternal melodrama.”

The discussion of the text and adaptations’ transgressive queerness is interesting.

I’m always a guest in film studies’ house when I read their crit. I don’t know enough about their traditions and vocabularies, and when I have to do film crit (or drama crit), I tend to do it *as* an English-studies person, to think about story and only shallowly about the materiality of its presentation. It’s a failing, but short of investing a lot of time in learning to be essentially a film or drama postgrad, I’m not sure how to correct it.


G. K. Chesterton: Fairy Tale Philosopher

StAR March/April 2010

Jennifer Overkamp

St. Gregory the Great Seminary

“Chesterton was preoccupied with fairy tales. He wrote seven full-length articles defending them, and devoted a chapter in his spiritual autobiography, Orthodoxy, to emphasizing the pivotal influence they had had on his thought.” Great, eight things to read. Thanks Chesterton/Obama.

“The phrase “fairy tale” appears in his writing more than 500 times.” Oh, good quantitative spot!

“In journalism he uses fairy tale imagery to discuss everything from hunting to neo-paganism to international relations. Nor was his interest in fairy tales temporary. His first fairy tale, “Flickerflash” (c. 1888), was penned around the time he was 14 and his play about a princess in a tower, The Surprise (1932), was written when he was 58.” Good argumentation here, interesting facts

Some awkward phrasing in this piece, I might have made different editorial choices.

“The fourth chapter of the book, “The Ethics of Elfland”, is the clearest explanation of Chesterton’s fairy tale philosophy. He describes a process where, influenced by the mental attitudes of fairy tales, he developed what he considered to be a reasonable philosophy based on his experiences in life and then discovered that Christianity had been there first.” should read this

Chesterton’s paradox argumentation might itself be aligned with charm’s oblique consensus-winning formal qualitities

Chersterton’s model of enchantment as remembering the world is startling and strange seems to (imperfectly) coincide with Butler’s categorization of one of Jones’ models of magic as ‘sensitivity to the strangeness of the world’

“there was something personal in the world” that’s rather beautiful

This essay is really too good for this disreputable production with its many bombastic and poorly-drawn Jesuses. Someone will say this is EXACTLY the sort of snobbishness and attempt to secularize blah blah but really. English High Anglican/Catholic revival has very little in common with American Neo-Awakening Fundamentalism.

“He argues that the modern novel demonstrates all that is wrong with modern fiction because modern fiction fails to value the sanity of the common person.” In addition to the class discourse Chesterton is sensitive to, something to be said here about the masculine modern novel and the feminine fairy tale/old wives tale?

““fairy-land is nothing but the sunny country of common sense.”33” charm as the canny

“I wave away, with wild gestures, that merely dingy and spiteful democracy which consists in declaring that every throne is only a chair. The true democracy consists in declaring that every chair is a throne. 35”

‘To see again the excitement of domesticity and the fun of furniture means to see the world as it really is.’

want to look up “Fiction As Food” ( The Spice of Life. Beaconsfield: Darwen Finlayson, Ltd., 1967), p. 36.


Ancient Sex Objects: The Erotic Allure of the Female Mummy in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Culture

Ellie Dobson


This impressive paper from Literary Dolls talks about mummies, unwrapping parties (‘imperial striptease’) and Victorian commodity culture. Dobson’s research on Victorian ideas of Egypt really intrigues me–such a good topic! It talks about the ways male mummies become amalgamated into larger, poorly-differentiated ideas of late Victorian Gothic monstrosity and get some realistic depictions, whereas female mummies retain an exotic appeal WHILE getting Westernized and are compared to precious material, described as white and ivory-like (in and out of bandages), and generally described unrealistically.

Some interesting quotes:

In 1907 the French writer Colette starred in a pantomime at the Moulin Rouge. Entitled ‘Reve d’Egypte’ – dream of Egypt – it featured herself decked out in revealing Egyptian-inspired costume and gold dust concealed underneath quantities of ribbon. This was then unravelled by her lesbian lover, who was playing the part of a male Egyptologist. After the unwrapping came a same-sex kiss so scandalous that police had to suppress the resulting riot – of the ten performances that were supposed to take place, only the first was ever allowed to happen. In this context, the female mummy had rejected her categorisation as artefact and presented herself on stage as a being with transgressive sexual appetites.”

“as late as 1908 people were eating the ancient Egyptian body for dubious medicinal purposes”

As Nina Auerbach has identified, there is an [click] ‘alluring conjunction of women and corpses’ present in literature of the fin de siècle [click], mirroring late Victorian and early Edwardian society’s increasing interest in the supernatural.”

” Trelawny tries to justify his actions to his daughter by reminding her that Tera is [click] ‘Not a woman, dear; a mummy!’ though his use of the feminine pronoun to refer to Tera suggests that he is all too aware of her womanliness.”

“The unwrapping of the ancient female body is not only voyeuristic; it is verging on necrophiliac. Justifying this perversion in fiction is the female mummy’s lifelike beauty, implying that she is close to being revived. If life can be restored then attraction is defensible.”

“attempts are made to control or neutralise the female mummy’s sexuality within Western marital structures. This, to return to Bradley Deane for a moment, has potent imperial implications.”<–this is a well-said, interesting, wider thing about marriage



Ethics of Elfiland, in Orthodoxy

Chesterton’s SEVEN bloody essays on fairy tales

Franco Moretti, ‘Kindergarten’, in Signs Taken for Wonders: On the Sociology of Literary Forms,

Ward’s “A Charm in those Fingers”

“Fiction As Food” ( The Spice of Life. Beaconsfield: Darwen Finlayson, Ltd., 1967), p. 36. ?


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