Here is the fourth episode of our podcast! This week is dedicated to Tracy Brain’s talk on ‘Sylvia Plath and You.’ Enjoy and feel free to share this episode, and to send us your comments and suggestions!
The TLW Team.
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How are you enjoying the TLW podcast so far? After Melanie Dawson’s talk on age and modernity in last week’s episode, we present you our third podcast episode, dedicated to Professor Gary Totten’s talk on African American women writers Jessie Redmon Fauset and Ida B. Wells. Both women travelled to Europe and used their transatlantic experience to inform their travel writing, which challenged negative stereotypes about African American populations, at a time of increased racial violence. This week, we listen to Gary talking about his research on their work, and then to an interview with TLW’s attendee and Edith Wharton specialist Anna Girling. Enjoy!
Have you booked your tickets yet for the Transatlantic Literary Women Symposium on Saturday 3 June? Talks, workshops, lunch, and a friendly welcome await. And it’s all free! Reserve a place here.
We’re also looking for volunteers. As part of our afternoon workshop, “Vote for YOUR Transatlantic Literary Woman”, volunteers will be giving brief talks on their favourite transatlantic literary woman. She can be a figure from hundreds of years ago, or someone out there today, a transatlantic literary woman who has inspired you, achieved great things, and/or someone who has been forgotten and you want to bring out of the shadows. The choice is yours!
In ‘Sylvia’, the second of the two poems she read at our Creative Writing Showcase, Maria Sledmere looks back on her discovery of another woman writer, another “tragic muse” figure in the traditional literary canon: poet and novelist Sylvia Plath (1932 – 1963).
You made pain feel celestial. I reached out to you
across the North Atlantic and back
to South Ayrshire, fifty years later…
I first came to you in a tizz on my sixteenth birthday;
borrowed from the school library, your cut-glass smile
too bright for the grease of a well-worn book.
I’m in love, I thought, with hate for my body;
but you made everything sensuous, electric.
To grab a poet at a party and bite their cheek
like an apple! You knew what you wanted;
too much of it, gorging like a fat capitalist
who only ever got skinny, slim with the silver
slink of your dress, your cigarette, your college-girl body.
You gave me an avocado
cut in half, with crabmeat stuffed in the middle.
I’d never heard of avocados, especially these ones: pale green, soft
and rooted with poison. Standing over toilet bowls
stuffing toothbrushes down my throat, I thought of your poetry;
of Doreen’s halo of gold, of Esther
with her white china, purged and holy.
You made pain feel celestial. I reached out to you
across the North Atlantic and back
to South Ayrshire, fifty years later. I felt
the cold cobalt of the sea, its enticement
strong and slick as morphine. That egg of a rock
calling forth your brain, the disarray
of virginity a kind of drowning. I claimed
my own place in the beaten ocean. The pages
flaked out away from me, crushed
between desperate fingers. I was so wholly absorbed
I forgot your words. Instead there were images: tulips,
candles, mushrooms and flutes; the incision
in paper, the falling, calling, folding of text.
I shared your curtailment of all excess.
Each slice of line would drowse my veins
like novocaine, and in the morning I’d wake indulgently,
still thin in my skin for your sylvan grin, a distant tryst;
my book loaned out for another crisis.
Maria Sledmere is a postgraduate student, studying for an MLitt in Modernities at the University of Glasgow. In her free time, she writes poetry, reviews music for RaveChild Glasgow, is assistant editor of SPAMzine and works as a waitress. Her chief passions include making mix tapes, painting and Tom McCarthy. She’s currently working on a collaborative zine called ‘Gilded Dirt’, and blogs about everything from Derrida to Lana Del Rey at http://musingsbymaria.wordpress.com.
If you’ve already had a look at our new programme for March and April, you may have heard of our upcoming talk on Angela Carter.
With the 25th anniversary of Carter’s death and the publication of Edmund Gordon’s biography The Invention of Angela Carter last autumn, the past few months have been filled with events inspired by her life and writing. A transatlantic woman in her own right, Carter lived and taught in America several times in her life, and her stories and novels give a significant place to the stories, myths and legends of the New World.
For the Carter fans among you, we decided to organise an evening dedicated to Carter’s representation of the American continent, with a talk by Dr Heidi Yeandle (University of Swansea). It will take place in a week, on Tuesday 14th March, in Room 203, 4 University Gardens, University of Glasgow. As usual, this evening is free to attend, and open to students and non-students alike. We’d love to see you there! We are also excited by Katrina Falco’s latest creation for this event:
Here’s a little idea of what the talk will be about, along with a short introduction of our fantastic speaker, Dr Heidi Yeandle:
“In this talk, Heidi Yeandle will discuss Angela Carter’s depiction of America in both her fictional writing and her journalism. Carter’s conflicting representations of the USA will be discussed, in relation to her generally negative experiences of living and teaching in the states as well as her fascination with Hollywood. In both her fiction and non-fiction, America is depicted as dystopian and as a “vicious fake”: it is apocalyptic and artificial. The American land is also frequently represented as a female body in Carter’s writing, leading into discussions of fertility and motherhood. Mainly focusing on The Passion of New Eve (1977) as well as ‘John Ford’s ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore’ and ‘The Merchant of Shadows’, two of Carter’s short stories from the posthumously published collection American Ghosts and Old World Wonders (1993), the talk will discuss the implications of Carter depicting America as female, and simultaneously apocalyptic and artificial. Yeandle’s talk will also note the multiple resemblances between the dystopian New York depicted in The Passion of New Eve and the United States in 2017.”
Heidi Yeandle is based at Swansea University, where she completed her PhD in 2015. Her first monograph Angela Carter and Western Philosophy was published earlier this year by Palgrave, and she has published a journal article on Carter’s depiction of America, as well as a book chapter on her representation of the apocalypse. Heidi has also published articles on other contemporary female authors, including Ali Smith and Helen Oyeyemi. She is currently convening an MA module dedicated to Angela Carter, and is starting to plan a second book on how contemporary female authors depict female writers in their fiction.
All updates on this event will be posted here. We hope that you will join us for an evening of discussion on Angela Carter! Looking forward to seeing you there!
Thank you very much to everyone who entered our writing competition, linked to our first book club choice, Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country (1913), narrating the exploits of a certain Undine Spragg. We really enjoyed reading your entries, which – in true transatlantic literary women style—were received from both sides of the Atlantic.
We asked you to write a dating profile for Undine Spragg or create one of Mrs Heeny’s newspaper clippings, writing a journalistic report on one of Undine’s parties.
There was no shortage of ideas, but we do have a winner. Congratulations to Deborah Molloy from Kent, who gives us a contemporary twist on a dating profile as Undine opts for the direct, targeted approach. Forget about being the Ambassador’s Wife!
Here’s Deborah’s winning entry. Enjoy!
I Mean To Have The Best
Dear Mr President
I am taking the unusual step of placing this personal ad as I realise that a terrifically busy man like you might not have time for niceties. I am currently between husbands, and really feel we were made for each other. I really, truly admire the way you always get what you want, power is the biggliest thrill, don’t you think? My daddy was a Wall Street man and I feel we speak the same language – alternative facts are the way forward. I have always felt I belonged on Fifth Avenue; why we’re practically neighbours! So, if you decide you want a First Lady who’s the home-made article my mamma will be happy to receive you at the Stentorian Hotel, 1 W 72nd St. Perhaps we can talk about lifting restrictions on pigeon-blood rubies.
With warmest regards,
Ms Undine Spragg-Marvell-de Chelles-Moffatt.
Many thanks to Deborah! We will be in touch with you about your customized prize. For all those interested in attending our next book club, we will be discussing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. You can pick up a copy at our Transatlantic Modernisms Workshop on Wednesday 8th February, or just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask how to get your free book! More information can be found on the page of the event here.
See you all on Wednesday!
PS: Feeling inspired? You can still submit your entries for our Student Creative Writing showcase until February 14th! Send your submissions of no more than 1,500 words of prose or 3 poems (maximum reading time 5-7 minutes) to: email@example.com, with Transatlantic Literary Women Series as the subject title.
Plans are underway for a fabulous Transatlantic Literary Women event at Glasgow Women’s Library in June. Here’s a taster of the last event I went to there, and what we might expect to see as part of the TLW series in the summer. Looking forward to it!
This time last week I was enjoying the fabulous #herland Burn’s Night Woolf Supper at Glasgow Women’s Library. There are many alternative Burns nights in Glasgow, but this was unmissable. Robert Burns and Virginia Woolf share the same birthday, a fascination with Mary Queen of Scots, and much more besides. One line in Woolf’s feminist tract A Room of One’s Own stands out – or should I say blazes out? – in particular:
‘Yet genius of a sort must have existed among women as it must have existed among the working classes. Now and again an Emily Brontë or a Robert Burns blazes out and proves its presence.’ — Virginia Woolf
The Herland event took the connections between Woolf and Burns as a prompt for night of poetry, music and feasting. We gathered in the library dressed in our best ‘Bloomsbury with a Burns twist’. Picture women in feathered hats, wearing creative fusions of tartan, tweed and sweeping patterned shawls. Library volunteers have decorated the room in suffragette colours with thistle-like patterns that evoke the work of Woolf’s sister, artist Vanessa Bell. One wall exhibits Woolf’s book covers (some are even projected, in purple, green and white, on the ceiling), with smatterings of pamphlets on Woolf’s connection to Scotland. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to display my own Woolf/Burns cut-up book art. Our salonnieres for the evening are poets JL Williams (dressed as a wolf) and Jane Goldman (with thistle-purple hair). The tone is set for a unique event.
Throughout the evening we have a feast of wonderful performances. Rahat Zahid ‘blazes out’ with her translations of Woolf and Burns into Urdu. Nuala Watt blazes out with her polyvocal poetry and singing. Poet Lila Matsumoto plays the fiddle as she leads us into the reading room where we enjoy a delicious Malaysian buffet from Julie MacLeod’s Street Kitchen. Then Sophie Collins shares an autobiography-poem inspired by Woolf’s Orlando, followed by a trio of local poets (above) who take full advantage of Mrs Dalloway rhyming with Galloway. Performer and writer MacGillivray gives a blazing performance that fuses electric harp, mermaid song and sound recordings of Mary Queen of Scots’ old haunts.
Although the supper is not a transatlantic event, it still forms a bridge, between Woolf’s England and Burns’ Scotland. The event also reaches across time: Burns was born in 1759, Woolf, on the same day in 1882, and both of them are channelled through our contemporary performers. It makes sense then, that we’ll be reaching across the Atlantic at Glasgow Women’s Library this summer.
Put June the 3rd in your diaries, for the summer extravaganza of the Transatlantic Literary Women series. There will be music and food. There will be poetry, talks and workshops. There will be keynote papers given by Professor Melanie Dawson (William and Mary College, USA) on ageing, advertising and modernity, and by Professor Gary Totten (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) on African American women travel writing. You’ll have the chance to nominate and give a pitch for your transatlantic literary woman of the year (perhaps even dressed in your own TLW inspired get-up). We’re looking forward to a day of translatlantic voices, blazing out! See you there – sláinte!