Friday, October 29, 2010

I Know You're Dying to Know . . .

Here's the blurb for my presentation today:

Henry Tilney: Austen’s Feminized Hero?

In Northanger Abbey, Austen praises the novel form as she satirizes elements of the gothic novel, particularly the female gothic: the castle; the atmosphere of mystery and suspense; the inexplicable events; the powerful, tyrannical male; the woman in distress. Jane Spencer and other critics have noted an additional element: the weak hero. These critics claim that, in the eighteenth-century female gothic novel, the heroine triumphs over male authoritarianism by marriage to a “feminized hero,” achieving a union “where womanly virtue and patriarchal authority are no longer in conflict” (Rise of the Woman Novelist, 207).

This paper will explore the character of Henry Tilney as Austen’s clever acknowledgement and rebuttal of this feminization of the hero. Austen does “feminize” Henry. He is well aware of accepted female behaviors—“their delightful habit of journalizing,” for instance—and is eloquently able to describe the contents of the perfect feminine journal entry (NA 27). He “understands muslins . . . particularly well” and has often been entrusted with the choice of his sister’s gowns (28). He’s an avid reader of novels, although Catherine assumes that novels are for women and “gentlemen read better books” (106). Yet Austen, in her other novels, discourages even hints of effeminacy in her male characters and champions virtuous masculinity. So, how should readers view Austen’s “feminization” of Henry? Her other heroines triumph, not by acquiring weak, feminized husbands, but by securing one who is both manly and virtuous. Is this true for Catherine also?

Fascinating, right? :-)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I'm Here

The JASNA conference is this weekend in Portland, OR. Beautiful part of the country! And I present tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Takin' the Long Way Around

I thought it was bad enough that I was supposed to fly to Portland, OR, today by way of Atlanta, GA I understand that LR is not a major hub, but flying east to go west still seems illogical. But after several delays and finally boarding only to find out that my flight had been cancelled, here's what I get to do tomorrow: Fly out at 6:55 am (you know what time that means I've got to get up, don't you?) And my new itinerary? Little Rock to Memphis, Memphis to Minneapolis, Minneapolis to Portland. I guess I should just be glad I'm getting there.

You Go, Girl!

Dian Sawyer: How many women on the Supreme Court is enough?

Ruth Bader Ginsberg: Nine.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What I'm Re-reading Now

In 1873, two women living on the Isles of Shoals, a lonely, windswept group of islands off the coast of New Hampshire, were brutally murdered. A third woman survived, cowering in a sea cave until dawn. More than a century later, Jean, a magazine photographer working on a photoessay about the murders, returns to the Isles with her husband, Thomas, and their five-year-old daughter, Billie, aboard a boat skippered by her brother-in-law, Rich, who has brought along his girlfriend, Adaline. As Jean becomes immersed in the details of the 19th-century murders, Thomas and Adaline find themselves drawn together-with potentially ruinous consequences. Shreve perfectly captures the ubiquitous dampness of life on a sailboat, deftly evoking the way in which the weather comes to dictate all actions for those at sea. With the skill of a master shipbuilder, Shreve carefully fits her two stories together, tacking back and forth between the increasingly twisted murder mystery and the escalating tensions unleashed by the threat of a dangerous shipboard romance. Written with assurance and grace, plangent with foreboding and a taut sense of inexorability, The Weight of Water is a powerfully compelling tale of passion, a provocative and disturbing meditation on the nature of love.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

My Current Re-read

In a startling departure from her previous novels ( Lady Oracle , Surfacing ), respected Canadian poet and novelist Atwood presents here a fable of the near future. In the Republic of Gilead, formerly the United States, far-right Schlafly/Falwell-type ideals have been carried to extremes in the monotheocratic government. The resulting society is a feminist's nightmare: women are strictly controlled, unable to have jobs or money and assigned to various classes: the chaste, childless Wives; the housekeeping Marthas; and the reproductive Handmaids, who turn their offspring over to the "morally fit" Wives. The tale is told by Offred (read: "of Fred"), a Handmaid who recalls the past and tells how the chilling society came to be.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

The contention between the "new" atheists and the devout is causing a resurgence in agnostic studies. Krasny (Off Mike) is a public radio host and a self-declared agnostic, maintaining a position that "stands open to verification of either side of the God question." Deftly balancing biography and literary scholarship, the book is both a personal examination of agnosticism and a balanced voice in the complex debate over faith's role in society. Krasny grew up a strong believer in his Jewish faith, until adolescent questioning led him to declare he just wasn't sure. Despite a lost connection with God, the young Krasny continued to seek a divine presence, even admitting to feelings of envy toward those possessing "the consolation of faith." In this book, agnosticism is a tool to philosophically engage with various manifestations of faith including organized religion, spiritual-but-not-religious sentiments, and even paranormal theories. Readers expecting a late chapter conversion will be disappointed; Krasny remains agnostic to the end, even while declaring his respect for the benefits religion can bring to believers.

You can access Krasny's NPR interview here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Right Equipment

A woman and her husband were vacationing at a lake. The husband liked to fish, and the boat was full of his equipment, but one day while he was napping, the woman decided to go out on the boat herself. She found a nice place on the lake and began to read her book.

A warden pulled up and told her she was in a restricted zone (no fishing) and he would have to arrest her. The woman explained that she was not fishing; she was reading. The warden responded that she had all the proper equipment for fishing and he would have to take her in to the station.

"If you do, I'll charge you with sexual assault" she snapped.

Dumb-struck, the warden protested that he hadn't even touched her.

"Yes, but you have all the proper equipment," she replied.

The moral of the story? Don't argue with a woman who reads; it's likely she can also think.

What I Just Finished

If you've ever wondered why you just can't stop eating certain foods, even when you have admirable self discipline in other areas, this book is for you.

From Publishers Weekly:

Conditioned hypereating is a biological challenge, not a character flaw, says Kessler, former FDA commissioner under presidents Bush and Clinton). Here Kessler (A Question of Intent) describes how, since the 1980s, the food industry, in collusion with the advertising industry, and lifestyle changes have short-circuited the body's self-regulating mechanisms, leaving many at the mercy of reward-driven eating. Through the evidence of research, personal stories (including candid accounts of his own struggles) and examinations of specific foods produced by giant food corporations and restaurant chains, Kessler explains how the desire to eat—as distinct from eating itself—is stimulated in the brain by an almost infinite variety of diabolical combinations of salt, fat and sugar. Although not everyone succumbs, more people of all ages are being set up for a lifetime of food obsession due to the ever-present availability of foods laden with salt, fat and sugar. A gentle though urgent plea for reform, Kessler's book provides a simple food rehab program to fight back against the industry's relentless quest for profits while an entire country of people gain weight and get sick. According to Kessler, persistence is all that is needed to make the perceptual shifts and find new sources of rewards to regain control.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My New Listen

There is no one in contemporary literature quite like Barbara Kingsolver. Her dialogue sparkles with sassy wit and earthy poetry; her descriptions are rooted in daily life but are also on familiar terms with the eternal. With Prodigal Summer, she returns from the Congo to a "wrinkle on the map that lies between farms and wildness." And there, in an isolated pocket of southern Appalachia, she recounts not one but three intricate stories.

Exuberant, lush, riotous--the summer of the novel is "the season of extravagant procreation" in which bullfrogs carelessly lay their jellied masses of eggs in the grass, "apparently confident that their tadpoles would be able to swim through the lawn like little sperms," and in which a woman may learn to "tell time with her skin." It is also the summer in which a family of coyotes moves into the mountains above Zebulon Valley:

The ghost of a creature long extinct was coming in on silent footprints, returning to the place it had once held in the complex anatomy of this forest like a beating heart returned to its body. This is what she believed she would see, if she watched, at this magical juncture: a restoration.
The "she" is Deanna Wolfe, a wildlife biologist observing the coyotes from her isolated aerie--isolated, that is, until the arrival of a young hunter who makes her even more aware of the truth that humans are only an infinitesimal portion in the ecological balance. This truth forms the axis around which the other two narratives revolve: the story of a city girl, entomologist, and new widow and her efforts to find a place for herself; and the story of Garnett Walker and Nannie Rawley, who seem bent on thrashing out the countless intimate lessons of biology as only an irascible traditional farmer and a devotee of organic agriculture can. As Nannie lectures Garnett, "Everything alive is connected to every other by fine, invisible threads. Things you don't see can help you plenty, and things you try to control will often rear back and bite you, and that's the moral of the story."

Structurally, that gossamer web is the story: images, phrases, and events link the narratives, and these echoes are rarely obvious, always serendipitous. Kingsolver is one of those authors for whom the terrifying elegance of nature is both aesthetic wonder and source of a fierce and abiding moral vision. She may have inherited Thoreau's mantle, but she piles up riches of her own making, blending her extravagant narrative gift with benevolent concise humor. She treads the line between the sentimental and the glorious like nobody else in American literature. --Kelly Flynn

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Girl Power

Josey and the Pussycats opening theme (1970)

Call for Papers

Christian Scholars' Conference 2011

The Path of Discovery: Science, Theology, and the Academy
June 16-18, 2011
Pepperdine University, Malibu, California

Crime Fiction, Science, and The Battle Between Good and Evil

A universal theme in Judeo-Christian literature is the battle between good and evil. This theme plays out in many genres—from Milton’s epic poetry to Tolkien’s fantasy novels, to Wilkie Collins’ Moonstone, a novel described by T. S. Eliot as “the first and greatest of English detective novels.” As Knutson notes, “The first practitioners within crime writing prepared the genre for a conservative worldview [in which] there was a binary opposition between right and wrong, good and evil,” and for the popular subgenre of forensic crime drama, the dichotomy still holds true. However, science has replaced God as the “good” and religion is often linked to evil (bigotry, intolerance, insanity) in the epic battle between good and evil. Submissions are welcome on any aspect of the role of science and/or religion in the battle between good and evil in crime fiction. This session invites submissions from both working scholars and PhD students.

Abstracts of 100 to 150 words and a brief bio should be sent in a Word attachment via e-mail by 21 December, 2010 to: Stephanie M. Eddleman,

Notice of acceptance of your paper will be provided by January 18, 2011.

For more information about the conference, go to

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What I'm Re-reading Now

Nearly forgotten after her death in 1970, Haushofer began to attract attention again when this novel was republished in the 1980s. Although it is described by the publisher as "a startling redefinition of ecofeminist utopian fiction," this first-person narrative has been characterized by most commentators as dystopian. It tells of a woman vacationing in a remote mountain hunting lodge who survives an unexplained catastrophe in which (almost) all the rest of the human world perishes. Imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, the unnamed narrator recounts her struggle to survive and her attempt to discover the essence of her own personality, femininity, and humanity. The minimalist plot is enhanced by rich description and wise insight, and the translation succeeds in capturing the author's fluid, lyrical style

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My New Listen

Lady Chatterley's Lover
by D.H. Lawrence

Narrated by Emilia Fox


LENGTH 5 hrs and 16 mins

Publisher's Summary
Lady Chatterley's Lover was the subject of one of the most infamous trials of the 20th century when Penguin was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. However, with expert witnesses for the defence, including E.M. Forster, Penguin was acquitted and permitted to publish in 1960. The book became a best seller largely on account of explicit scenes of a sexual nature and use of four letter words. However, re-reading again over 40 years later, one realises that although the sex scenes are still graphic even today, the book is about much more than sex. It covers love, class, disability, family relationships, infertility, politics, and that 'bitch-goddess' success.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What I'm Reading Now

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Friday, October 1, 2010


If you do not enjoy laughing uncontrollably, do not read David Sedaris. Enough said.