02 March 2009

Current projects.

And projects they are!

First, thanks in part to Christian's dissertation, I'm rereading the glorious Gothic page-turner The Mysteries of Udolpho, by Ann Radcliffe. I'd always thought of it as 18th-century chick lit (I came to it via Austen's Northanger Abbey, which warns by example of the dangers of taking such stuff too seriously), but I'm informed that her contemporaries considered her one of the greatest writers in the English language. Cleaning out my closet yesterday I rediscovered some thoughts I'd jotted down when I first read Udolpho in the summer of 2001:

"Gothic romance is compelling because the overplayed emotion represents what it FEELS like to have an emotion, even if the external appearance is very different from ordinary life. When a lover leaves us, even for a short time, it FEELS like forever; it FEELS as if we will die. . . . Similarly, we may feel the rage to kill someone over a slight, but most of us do not--in gothic romance, characters are able to follow through on this everyday feeling in a non everyday way, and can take their revenge in blood. In this way, what seems overdone is actually a more accurate representation of the experience of emotion that we all have."

It's great fun. And people say "Ah!" and "O!" a lot.

Then, for my non-fiction tome, I'm reading Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's groundbreaking The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. I used it as a source so often in my stint in grad school (does anyone else reread their old academic papers for fun? Man, I sure do), I decided to take it on in its 600-page-of-feminist-criticism entirety. I guess it's old hat by now, academically (there are some amusing passages in the preface to the 20th-anniversary edition where Gilbert and Gubar essentially apologize for their white, middle-class, English-speaking bias--oh, and the hopelessly antiquated notion that authors even exist), but as with Udolpho, I'm having great fun. I've even made a marginal note: "angel in the house=manic pixie dream girl." Quick, someone assign me a paper on the subject.

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