Now that I’ve made all the “easy” finds, I’m facing the more difficult, and yet more enthralling, task of digging in deeper and finding the materials that aren’t so readily available. Technology has obviously made so many things easier; I would not have been able to accomplish this project 50 years ago. But there is nothing like being in an archive in person, especially when you don’t know what you might uncover. I’m not known for my sparkling conversation at cocktail parties (heck, I don’t even go to cocktail parties), but I can lose myself in a dusty archive and
I grew up reading books like Little Women and Anne of Green Gables, and naturally that fascination led to an interest in the authors of those books. So my research on Austin is a natural fit for a life-long interest. But I didn’t expect to fall in love with archival research, and now I can say that I’m addicted. There is a definite thrill in viewing and reading something that no one has looked at in decades. And when it’s material about someone or something you’re passionate about, there’s a connection there that transcends the ages. Early in my PhD
Quick Facts about Standish of Standish: Date of publication: 1889 Author: Jane Goodwin Austin (NOT the English Jane Austen!) Setting: Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the early years of the settlement Plot Synopsis: Standish of Standish opens with the Mayflower anchored in the harbor and the women demanding to be taken ashore to do their laundry after months onboard. The Pilgrims eventually find and then settle in Plymouth where they deal with the difficulties of the first winter, including numerous deaths. The first summer is more successful, as is the first fall, and Pilgrims invite the Wampanoag to a feast by way of saying thank you. Another year passes as
Why are some sources on the Pilgrims considered reliable or useful, while others are ignored or even ridiculed? There is a fair amount of speculation and imaginative reconstruction in even the driest of histories, and those are the points I find the most fascinating. What truly separates a historical novel from history? Jane G Austin made no secret of the fact that she was writing a “romance” of the Plymouth Colony in Standish of Standish (1889). The preface begins, “The history of the Old Colony includes, among some very stern facts, a deal of sweet and tender romance, hitherto hardly
This semester has been incredibly busy, so much so that I have not posted here in way too long. But I’m getting ready for this presentation next week, and I love the way that the publicity pictures turned out. The image of Columbia stirring Pilgrim and Thanksgiving iconography in a giant melting pot is perfect for this speech.
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting with a lovely group of people at the Doraville Public Library’s American Short Stories discussion group. They read Austin’s short story, “William Bradford’s Love Life,” which Austin had first published in 1869, and which I’ve previously written about here. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from our discussion, but I was so excited to hear their responses! Reviews were mixed, and I don’t think anyone really loved the story. Nobody was happy with the female characters. It’s hard to feel sympathy for Dorothy, mooning about and putting up with her husband whispering