". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, October 3, 2014

Elizabeth Gaskell's Home Reopened

Victorian novelist, Elizabeth Gaskell is the author of works that still appeal today to certain sorts of readers (including myself): North and South, Wives and Daughters, Cranford. These three have been adapted as eminently watchable television series.

Further, many lovers of the history of the novel in English are grateful to Mrs. Gaskell for writing the posthumous biography of her dear friend, The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857 -- first edition).

However, not everyone is / was pleased with this biography, particularly once the previous century's second-wave feminism emerged.  21st century's fannish approaches to literary criticism, reviewing, writing and reading particularly perceive Gaskell's biography as a repellent sanitation of Brontë, patron saint of victimized women of passion in possession of the specialness gene.

Plymouth House,  121 Upper Rumford Street, to which the Gaskells moved in 1842 from a slightly smaller house in the same district, in which they'd lived since 1832.

Plymouth House today, restored.

Could this sort of feminist quarreling have contributed to the 20-year struggle to preserve and restore Gaskell's home? Having re-read Gaskell's biography of the author of Jane Eyre several times at different periods of my own life, it feels to me as though the writer of the linked-to essay is willfully misreading the work -- in order to view Ms Brontë through her own lens of desire that reduces all literature and other entertainments to "doing it!" fast and furious and often, preferably with the ripping of the clothes off. But that's why we keep writing about these writers, because we have different perspectives.

Plymouth House is located in Ardwick, which by the mid-nineteenth century, had become a "pleasant and wealthy" suburb of Manchester, Manchester, which was a cradle of English industrialization. This proximity to the horrors to which factory workers were subject provoked Gaskell' s sensibility to write with such sensitivity on what were then called social subjects, as with her successful novel, North and South.

Complete story in the Manchester Evening News, here.

And more here in the UK Guardian.

No comments: