Austin’s 1889 novel, Standish of Standish, is definitely her most popular work, but it’s also an incredibly influential novel because of its impact on American culture. It’s not a coincidence that the Pilgrims began to be associated with the “first” Thanksgiving only after her book was published (but more on that in another post). Nor is it a coincidence that stories about America’s past were popular at that time; after all, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 and the Pledge of Allegiance was written and promoted in 1887. In 1910, more than 30 states had laws requiring Americanization programs for immigrants.
I’ve studied this novel for almost 7 years, and I’m excited to hear what others have to say about it. I’ve posted a PDF of the annotated, edited version with some contextual and biographical information here: http://www.inventingthepilgrims.com/Standish
And I’ve created a Facebook page where we can talk about the book here: http://www.facebook.com/inventingthepilgrims Look under Events for the reading group.
I don’t have specific plan for this reading group. Mostly, I’m just really interested to hear what other readers have to say! I’ve set the dates as September 30-October 14, giving us two weeks to interact, but please feel free to comment here, there, or via email at any time. I’m also happy to answer any questions (if I can).
A few possible questions for discussion:
- What do you make of the plot?
- Do you think the archaic language adds to the “authenticity” of the story, or does it make it unnecessarily difficult to read?
- Historical fiction typically follows one of two patterns. Either the past is better than the present, and thus the work is nostalgic. Or the present is much better than the less enlightened past, even if the past explains the present. Which pattern does Standish follow?
- Where does Austin veer from the historical record? What is she trying to accomplish when she does?
- Why did this novel fall out of favor? Do you think it’s worth recovering?
- Should Standish of Standish be called a novel? Is it historical fiction or is there a better category for it?