TLW Film Night, Wednesday 18th April 2018, 5.15pm

Film Night
Wednesday 18th April 2018, 5.15pm
Gilchrist Postgraduate Club, Glasgow University

Those of you who have attended our events in the past will know that we hand out feedback forms asking what you would like to see included in the series’ future events. One of the frequent suggestions that we get is for a film screening, and what with the overdue recognition that is currently being given to women’s role in the film industry, we have been inspired to arrange some film-related events. Not only can we confirm that our very first film screening will take place on Wednesday 18th April, but we also have a fantastic film-related talk in the pipeline after summer! Keep your eyes peeled on the blog and Twitter for updates on the talk.

So, what are we going to be screening on our very first film night? Well, we think that you should have a say in this, so to narrow things down a little we have collated a list of four films to choose from, and created a Twitter Poll. You can read a little about each film below, as well as why they are relevant in celebrating the achievements of women in film. Whether it’s one of your favourite films that you want to re-watch in good company, or if it’s a film that you have been meaning to see for ages, this is your chance . . . get voting!

Lost in Translation (2003)
Sofia Coppola has avoided living in the shadow of her acclaimed father, Francis Ford Coppola, by following her own creative path and paving the way for other female film-makers in the industry. She wrote, directed and produced this highly-acclaimed film which follows the friendship of an actor (Bill Murray) and a college graduate (Scarlett Johansson). Lost in Translation was nominated for numerous Academy Awards, with Coppola winning Best Original Screenplay, and Johansson taking the BAFTA for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

American Honey (2016)
Andrea Arnold is a British filmmaker who some of you may be familiar with through her film Red Road (2006), a Scottish film set in the Red Road high-rise flats in Glasgow. American Honey focuses on a very different world from this, following runaway youth, Star (Sasha Lane), on her journey around the Midwest of America. The film won both the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and Best British Film at the BAFTA awards.

Sound of My Voice (2011)
Brit Marling co-wrote, co-produced, and starred in this psychological indie thriller about documentary-makers who go undercover in a Los Angeles cult. Marling has been making her mark on film and television over the last few years with films like Another Earth (2011), The East (2013) and the Netflix series The OA. She has spoken out about what made her start writing roles for women rather conforming to the roles being ascribed in a male-dominated industry. You can read more about this in her response to the Weinstein scandal here.

Morvern Callar (2002)
You may have seen British film-maker Lynne Ramsay’s latest film, You Were Never Really Here (2017), in the cinema right now. Ramsay co-wrote and directed Morvern Callar, and this choice has a bit of a literary theme to it. It was adapted from a book of the same name, and also follows Morvern (Samantha Morton) as she masquerades as the author of an unpublished novel which her boyfriend has left behind before committing suicide. Morton won the BIF award for Best Actress, and the film won the Award of the Youth at Cannes.

All these films are from female filmmakers which have been given award recognition, we hope you like what we have chosen and look forward to seeing which film you pick. The poll closes in a week, so get your votes in while you can! The film night will take place at Gilchrist Postgraduate Club, plus it’s free and open to all (student and public). We will have some snacks and refreshments, and you can also purchase food and alcoholic drinks from the Gilchrist café.

Head over for 5.15pm to join us for a relaxed and welcoming night appreciating women’s achievements in the world of film-making!

Kari and the TLW team.


Forgotten Transatlantic Literary Women: Marguerite Yourcenar


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

By Margarida Sao Bento Cadima (University of Glasgow)
Remember to join our online book club on #ForgottenTLW on Wednesday 28th February, 7pm – 8pm, on Twitter.

Marguerite Yourcenar was a Belgian-born French writer who was the first woman to be elected to the Académie française in 1980. While she is not exactly a forgotten writer, she is very much overlooked as a transatlantic writer. She was born Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour on 8th June 1903 in Brussels to a bourgeois family of French origin. During her childhood, Yourcenar travelled through Europe with her father. She visited London, France, Switzerland and Italy. Some places would have more of an impact on her than others, such as visiting the Villa Adriana in Tivoli, which was to be the setting of her most famous novel Memoirs of Hadrien.

In 1921 she published her first poem Le Jardin des chimères under the name Yourcenar, an anagram of her family name that she would adopt as her legal name in 1947, the year she became an American citizen. Her first novel entitled Alexis was published in 1929, and its style is heavily influenced by André Gide’s prose. Traveling had a great impact on Yourcenar, in 1938 she published a collection of short stories entitled Oriental Tales.

The year World War II broke out, Yourcenar moved to the United States with her partner Grace Frick. They met in 1937 when Frick was in Paris doing research work for her thesis, which she started at Yale University and completed at the University of Kansas. Frick and Yourcenar were partners in every sense of the word, with Frick being also a literary scholar and the translator of Yourcenar’s texts to English. For the next forty years they would make the northeast of the United States their home. Yourcenar took a place teaching comparative literature at Sarah Lawrence College and later they bought a house together (which they called “Petite Plaisance”) on Mount Desert Island which is in Northeast Harbor, Maine. If you are ever in the area you can visit it! There, Yourcenar passed away on 17th December 1987 and was buried beside her beloved Grace Frick, who died 8 years prior.

Despite having spent almost five decades living in the United States, Yourcenar never made it a subject of her fiction. In fact, from the shores of the New World, Yourcenar was writing about the Old World. In this light, it is interesting to think what kind of impact that transatlantic experience had on her literary production. Her best-known novel is entitled Memoirs of Hadrian and it was published in 1951 This novel was written entirely in her home in Maine. Yourcenar hesitated about who would be the protagonist of her novel: the choice came down to the Roman emperor Hadrian or the Persian mathematician and poet Omar Khayyam. The title makes it clear with who she went for in the end.

Memoirs of Hadrian is a historical novel recounting the life of Roman emperor Hadrian, in the form of a letter to his successor Marcus Aurelius. In this long letter, the emperor discusses his love for Antinous, life, death, and philosophy. These meditations were not only crossing time, but also crossing place. Writing from a country that was not her birthplace, Yourcenar was concerned with the question of homeland and where does one belong. Through Hadrian she writes that: “The true birthplace is that wherein for the first time one looks intelligently upon oneself; my first homelands have been books.” Ultimately, Yourcenar was a universal writer, more than a European writer, who deserves to be thought of through the perspective of her transatlantic existence.

Have any Forgotten Transatlantic Literary Women you want to tell us about? Remember to join our online book club on #ForgottenTLW on Wednesday 28th February 7pm – 8pm. Follow us on twitter @atlantlitwomen

Forgotten Transatlantic Literary Women: Lorine Niedecker


Photo courtesy of The Operating System

Remember to join our online book club on #ForgottenTLW on Wednesday 28th February, 7pm – 8pm, on Twitter.

This week’s Forgotten Transatlantic Literary Women blog focuses on the North-American modernist poet Lorine Niedecker (1903-70) who, towards the end of her life, established a number of vital creative connections with British-based writers and publishers.

It is worth pointing out, first of all, that although Niedecker’s poetry was little published during her lifetime, and often undervalued by her peers, it has since been the subject of extensive critical reassessment, and has been exhaustively excavated and collated, most notably by Jenny Penberthy for her authoritative Lorine Niedecker: Collected Works (2002). In this sense, Niedecker is perhaps more of a famously forgotten writer than a forgotten one, but the story of her life and work remains fascinating, as does that of her long-term struggle to find an audience for her work, and of its late but enthusiastic reception amongst poets and publishers based in Britain: Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Wild Hawthorn Press, Jonathan Williams’s Jargon Society, and Roy Fisher’s Fulcrum Press.

As Jenny Penberthy notes of Niedecker’s biography, “[h]er life by water could not have been further removed from the avant-garde poetry scene where she also made herself a home” (1). Born and brought up in Black Hawk Island, a marshy area of rural Wisconsin where she remained for most of her adult life, Niedecker described her childhood as filled with “twittering and squawking noises” (Penberthy, 2). The sensitive musicality of her work – comparable to that of two of her British friends, Basil Bunting and Ian Hamilton Finlay – may channel the sound-world of her upbringing:

I rose from marsh mud,

algae, equisetum, willows,

sweet green, noisy

birds and frogs


(Penberthy, 170)

After dropping out of a literature course to tend to her sick mother, Niedecker married in 1928 and became a librarian, publishing a small number of poems during the late 1920s informed by the imagism of writers like H.D. (a fellow transatlantic woman writer), and early Ezra Pound. From the early 1930s onwards – the depression having cost her both her job and her marriage – she was inspired by Objectivism, beginning an intense correspondence with Louis Zukofsky from the parental home to which she had returned. In 1933, Niedecker visited Zukofsky in New York and they became lovers. She fell pregnant with twins, but Zukofsky pressured her to abort. Niedecker’s long poem-sequence “For Paul”, written mainly across the 1950s, is addressed to the son whom Zukofsky went on to have with Celia Thaew, and seems shot through with a subdued grief to any reader familiar with Niedecker’s life (she died childless):


now six years old:

this book of birds I loved

I give to you.

I thought now maybe Paul

growing taller than cattails

around Duck Pond

between the river and the Sound

will keep this book intact,

fly back to it each summer


maybe Paul


(“For Paul”, Penberthy 137)

Niedecker’s first collection, The New Goose, had been published semi-privately in 1946. Contra her reputation during her life as a naïve, rural savant, it incorporates pithy responses to national and international politics. However, these are filtered through a modernist-folk idiom owing as much to the vernacular speech-rhythms of her local community and the anonymous proletarian poetry of the “Mother Goose” songbook as the modernist literary collage of Pound, Zukofsky and Marianne Moore; it is also acutely sensitive to local as well as global events:

The brown muskrat, noiseless

swims the white stream,

stretched out as if already

a woman’s neck-piece.


In Red Russia the Russians

at a mile a minute

pitch back Nazi wildmen

wearing women.


(Penberthy, 109)

Expanding on these forms and motifs, by the end of the 1950s “For Paul” had grown into a projected second collection, “For Paul and Other Poems”. But Niedecker struggled to find a publisher, perhaps because her most regular creative advisor Louis Zukofsky was deeply uncomfortable with some of the content, perhaps simply because of the pressures of the various day-jobs – including hospital cleaning – through which Niedecker was forced to support herself. A marked note of solitude and frustration creeps into these poems:

What horror to awake at night

And in the dimness see the light.

                             Time is white

                             Mosquitoes bite

I’ve spent my life on nothing.


(Penberthy, 147)

At the same time, the poet Hannah Brooks-Motl suggests that in its formal ambition, “For Paul” represents “a turning point for Niedecker”, taking her from the minute, incidental poems of The New Goose to “the open-ended sequences such as Lake Superior that mark her late period.”

At this point, Niedecker’s biography starts to intersect with those of various poet-publishers based across the Atlantic, and we sense the emergence of what Peter Middleton calls “the British Niedecker.” Her most significant contacts in this regard were the Edinburgh-based poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and Jonathan Williams, a native of North Carolina whose Jargon Society imprint operated, as Ross Hair states, “from two remote locations: Highlands, North Carolina and Dentdale in England’s Yorkshire Dales” (2). Both Williams and Finlay operated at the geographical and artistic fringes of what is now called the British Poetry Revival, a period during the 1950s-70s when younger British poets turned against the conservatism of the Movement poets (Philip Larkin et al) and embraced early twentieth-century literary modernism, emulating its development by their North-American contemporaries, poets of the neo-objectivist, Black Mountain College and New York schools.

This transatlantic dynamic has often been described with reference to the esoteric, high-modernist aesthetics of poets such as J.H. Prynne. But it was the vernacular, folksy aspects of Niedecker’s idiom that appealed to Finlay and Williams, both of whom thought of themselves, in certain ways, as outsiders in this new modernist poetry scene. Niedecker’s My Friend Tree (1961), illustrated with faux-naïve woodcuts, was one of the first publications of Finlay and Jessie McGuffie’s Wild Hawthorn Press, Finlay having been enraptured by The New Goose after receiving a copy in 1961. Though My Friend Tree was a different and far smaller publication than the one Niedecker had envisaged, she was buoyed by the attention, and embraced her status as ‘folk poet’ with a newfound confidence. She seems to pay homage to her new friend and correspondent in “Letter from Ian”:

Aye sure

a castle on the rock

in the middle of Edinburgh


They floodlight it—

big show up there

with pipe bands

and all


Down here along the road

open your door

to a posse of poets.


(Penberthy, 207)

Across the remainder of the 1960s, interest in Niedecker’s work finally grew. In 1965, Williams offered to publish the manuscript of “collected poems” that Niedecker had prepared, although the chaotic state of Jargon Society finances held back the publication of T&G: The Collected Poems until 1969. In the meantime, the London-based press Fulcrum, operated by the South-African poet Stuart Montgomery, and the most financially solvent and ambitious of the new British modernist poetry presses, published another collection, North Central (1968); in 1970, Montgomery would bring out an expanded collected poems, My Life by Water: Collected Poems, 1936-1968.

In 1963 Niedecker had married again, moving with her new husband to Milwaukee. Her financial security allowed her to dedicate the last seven years of her life to writing full-time, and to travelling more widely. Her work began to appear in magazines with increasing frequency, and to take on more expansive and ambitious forms. Late, extended sequences such as “Lake Superior”, “Wintergreen Ridge”, and “Paean to Place” enfold biographical detail with precisely conveyed botanical, geological, and cultural awareness of place and landscape, all with Niedecker’s distinctive, lithe musicality. It would be wrong to depict the last ten years of her life as a period of final, unmitigated success. She remained, as her poems suggest, on the outside of things during the 1960s: “I see no space-rocket/ launched here/ no mind-changing// acids eaten” (“Wintergreen Ridge”, Penberthy 255). But she did develop a network of intense creative friendships, becoming the benign matriarch of what Ross Hair calls an “avant-folk” community, linking up the rural peripheries of North America and Britain. By the time of her death – of a cerebral haemorrhage, on New Year’s Eve 1970 – Niedecker was just beginning to establish herself as one of the most original poets of the late-modernist era.

By Greg Thomas. His forthcoming book on Concrete Poetry in England and Scotland is being published by Liverpool University Press.


Hannah Brooks-Motl, “The Lives of Lorine Niedecker.”, originally published 2013.

Ross Hair, Avant-Folk: Small Press Poetry Networks from 1950 to the Present. Liverpool University Press, 2017.

Peter Middleton, “The British Niedecker.” In Radical Vernacular: Lorine Niedecker and the Poetics of Place, edited by Elizabeth Willis, University of Iowa Press, 2008.

Lorine Niedecker, Collected Works. Edited by Jenny Penberthy, University of California Press, 2002.






Fluffy Ruffles and the New Woman Cartoon

Fluffy web image

The talk will be on Wednesday 21 February, from 5.15 – 7pm, Rooms 202 and 203, 4 University Gardens, Glasgow.

Season 2 of the Transatlantic Literary Women is well under way, and next up we’re delighted to welcome Gaby Fletcher, from the National University of Ireland, Galway, to give a talk on the New Woman cartoon from the early 20th century, the lively Fluffy Ruffles. I had a preview of this talk recently and can confirm that we’re in for a treat. Join us for this friendly, social event with refreshments and a great talk!

Here are a few words from Gaby Fletcher on the topic:

‘Fluffy Ruffles: debating, reproducing, and fashioning the New Woman’

Fluffy Ruffles was a vivacious, fashionable, and enterprising New Woman cartoon published in the New York Herald during 1907-1909. Drawn by Wallace Morgan and Carolyn Wells, the cartoon created an international sensation when the Herald began a competition to find the real Fluffy Ruffles in America during 1907. In the newspaper, tangible debate ensued about the representation and lived reality of the American New Woman. By explicitly playing with the boundaries of lived and fictional reality, Fluffy Ruffles crafted a form of New Woman that relied on the repeated narration of an idealised female identity.

The New York Herald, and particularly the European edition known as The Paris Herald, carefully crafted a responsive public sphere with its readership.  As an exemplar of this process, Fluffy Ruffles provides a form of cultural narrative that can be traced across a variety of disparate texts, authors, and products. Examining how Fluffy Ruffles generated interaction in the pages of the Paris Herald provides the opportunity to observe how the mass popular press can be used as a tool to read across and bring together seemingly disparate authors, like Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein, in their culturally responsive writing.

Gaby photo


Gaby Fletcher is a PhD candidate at the National University of Ireland, Galway and is an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar. Her thesis considers how Djuna Barnes, Gertrude Stein, and Edith Wharton respond to notions of the female ideal located in American social reform campaigns.

Other upcoming events for your diaries include our Online Book Club on Forgotton Transatlantic Literary Women, on Wednesday 28th February, from 7-8pm. Join us on Twitter to share and discover underappreciated transatlantic women writers, with the hashtags #TLWBookChat and #ForgottenTLW! We also announce the winners of our International Women’s Day competition on the 8th of March, so get writing about your favourite International woman and submit your entries. Keep your eyes peeled for more details on our upcoming film screening and suffrage centenary event…

We looking forward to seeing you soon!

Saskia McCracken



Forgotten Transatlantic Literary Women: Clarice Lispector

Lispector 1Courtesy of Wellcome Trust

Remember to join our #TLWBookChat on #ForgottenTLW

In the lead up to our online book club on the 28th of February, we’re posting about overlooked transatlantic woman writers, and today I’m going to talk about Clarice Lispector. She was born in 1920 to a Jewish family in western Ukraine, as a result of her parents’ belief that pregnancy was a cure for syphilis in women. Her mother died of the disease ten years later. By this time, the family had fled anti-Semitic violence, and moved to Brazil, where Clarice studied law and became a journalist for government press, Agência Nacional. She went on to marry (and later divorce) a Brazilian diplomat, and re-crossed the Atlantic, living in Italy, the UK, and Switzerland, working in a military hospital in Naples during World War II.

In 1959 she returned to Brazil and took part in protests against the Brazilian military dictatorship that lasted twenty years. During her lifetime she wrote nine novels, multiple short stories, articles, journalism (published in Brazil and Portugal), children’s literature, as well as translating Agatha Christie, Oscar Wilde, and Edgar Allen Poe into Portuguese. I’ll talk about a few of these books below, and include links to some of her short stories at the end of the blog.

Lispector 2

At the age of twenty three, Clarice Lispector had published her award-winning debut novel Near to the Wild Heart (1943). Influenced by James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, the novel follows Joanna, and opens with child-speak and memory impressions:

Her father’s typewriter went clack-clack… clack-clack-clack… The clock awoke in dustless tin-dlen. The silence dragged out zzzzzz. What did the wardrobe say? clothes-clothes-clothes. No, no. Amidst the clock, the typewriter and the silence there was an ear listening, large, pink and dead.

This passage gives a sense of Lispector’s continually evolving and experimental voice. She claimed that when composing Água Viva (1973) she literally wrote down everything that came into her head, whether it seemed profound or dull. The result is an interior monologue that replaces chronological sequence with the ‘instant-now’, reaching for the ‘beyond-thought’. Her writing can be difficult but rewarding to read, and this may be a reason that her work is often neglected. That she has been neglected is evident when Colm Tóibín describes her as ‘One of the hidden geniuses of the 20th century’.

Despite this apparent invisibility, she has received high praise from critics and other writers. Her biographer Benjamin Moser calls her ‘The most important Jewish writer since Kafka’, The New York Times Book Review says that she is ‘The premier Latin American woman writer of this century’, and writer Elizabeth Bishop confesses in a letter to Robert Lowell that, Actually, I think she is better than JL Borges’. The most Lispectorian response to her writing is that of feminist theorist Hélène Cixous who says that Clarice Lispector is ‘what Kafka would have been had he been a woman, or if Rilke had been a Jewish Brazilian born in the Ukraine. If Rimbaud had been a mother, if he had reached the age of fifty. If Heidegger could have ceased being German.’  I’ll close with Lispector’s own words about her writing. Here is the epigraph of her novel The Passion According to G. H. (1964):

To Possible Readers

This book is like any other book. But I would be happy if it were only read by people whose souls are already formed. Those who know that the approach, of whatever it may be, happens gradually and painstakingly – even passing through the opposite of what it approaches. They who, only they, will slowly come to understand that this book takes nothing from no one. To me, for example, the character G. H. gave bit by bit a difficult joy; but it is called joy.

Likewise, I find that Lispector’s writing brings me a difficult joy, but it is joy. Try her for yourself by reading ‘Report on the Thing’, a surreal report on the nature of time, advertising, and an electronic alarm clock. We also have an exploration of entangled feminist and animal ethics in ‘The Hen’ (1964), and a short story called ‘Clandestine Happiness’ (1971). For more on her life and works see this interesting article on Lispector in Vice.  I hope you, too, find joy in Lispector’s writing.

By Saskia McCracken


Forgotten Transatlantic Literary Women: Toni Cade Bambara

Remember to join our #TLWBookChat on #ForgottenTLW

In the build up to our online book club on the 28th of February, we’re posting about overlooked transatlantic woman writers, and my favourite at the moment is Toni Cade Bambara (1939-1995). She was a civil rights and feminist activist, a writer, community worker and academic, and friend of Toni Morrison, who edited her posthumous work. Although Bambara lived in New York City for most of her life, she is transatlantic in several respects: she spent a year living in Milan, Italy, studying acting and mime, and visited France in the same year, 1961. In the early 1970s, she travelled to Cuba, and across the Atlantic to Vietnam, where she engaged with women’s organisations as part of her ongoing work on politically effective movements.

Bambara Pic

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

It’s worth discussing her life in further detail before moving on to her writings, partly because her experiences were important in shaping that writing, partly because the writing is an aspect of her activism, and partly because her life is simply fascinating. She was born Toni Cade and took the name Bambara after finding it inscribed in her great-grandmother’s sketch book. Bambara is the national language of Mali and the name of a West African ethnic group. She spent much of her childhood in New York Public Library and was inspired by Harlem Renaissance writers Gwendolyn Brooks (whose photograph hung in the library) and Langston Hughes. She studied Theatre, English and American studies, completed her masters at City College New York, and went on to become a social worker, occupational therapist, and then professor at Rutgers University. Meanwhile, she ran community-focused organisations raising black American consciousness, and took the written word to the stage as director of the Theatre of the Black Experience in the 1960s. She collaborated on several TV documentaries in the 1990s, including W. E. B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices (1996), and was the narrator for the documentary Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1993), as well as writing a screenplay adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel Tar Baby (1984). She was active throughout the 1970s in civil rights and women’s movements.

Her activism is reflected in her writing and editorial choices. Her first published book was The Black Woman: An Anthology (1970), followed closely by Tales and Stories for Black Folks (1971). These collections showcased work by famous writers such as Audre Lourde, but also the work of undergraduates, and African American women of different ages and classes who were underrepresented in the male-dominated civil rights movement, and white-dominated women’s movements of her time. She also supported emerging writers by founding and hosting the Pamoja Writer’s Collective in her home, where she held pot luck dinners.


Courtesy of Good Reads

Bambara published several collections of short stories including Gorilla, My Love (1972) and The Sea Birds Are Still Alive (1977), and novels such as The Salt Eaters (1980), which received the American Book Award in 1981, If Blessing Comes (1987), and Raymond’s Run (1990). Her fiction is set at times in the rural south, at times in the urban north, and focuses on the lives of African American men and women (often activists) and their communities. She uses local street dialect and her themes include social change and community solidarity. Toni Morrison edited Bambara’s posthumously published novel Those Bones Are Not My Child (1999), and said of Bambara’s work: ‘Her writing is woven, aware of its music, its overlapping waves of scenic action, so clearly on its way […] like a magnet collecting details in its wake, each of which is essential to the final effect’ (The Norton Anthology of American Literature p. 2861).

The best way to get to know Bambara’s writing is to read it for yourself, so have a listen to the audiobook version of her short story ‘The Lesson’ here, and tell us what you think! Submit a short piece about your own favourite forgotten transatlantic woman writer to before the 28th of February and we’ll post it on the blog! We look forward to hearing your thoughts, either as a blog or on Twitter using the hashtag #ForgottenTLW.

Sources include: FemBio, Britannica, The New York Times, and The Norton Anthology of American Literature, volume E, 7th Edition, Ed. Nina Baym, JeromeKlinkowitz, and Patricia B. Wallace (New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company, 2007).

By Saskia McCracken