2-4 pm, Tuesday 25th September, Board Room, National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW
Please join us at the National Library of Scotland on 25th September for an afternoon of talks about Transatlantic Literary Women and their Archives. While attention has traditionally focused on the writings of male (usually white) contributors to the transatlantic tradition, this afternoon will look at three very different transatlantic women writers and will consider the relationship between archives and literary reputations. How has the presence (or absence) of women writers from official archives contributed to their relative scarcity in the literary canon? What is the place of libraries (and other archives) in the recovery of “forgotten women writers”? What is the relationship between a writer’s archive and their literary status?
Four speakers will discuss these and other questions:
– Jenni Calder on the 1930s Scottish explorer and poet Isobel Wylie Hutchison
– Donna Campbell on the American author Edith Wharton
– Imaobong Umoren on the Jamaican poet and broadcaster Una Marson
– A.N. Devers on the underrepresentation of women in the rare book trade, and why she started The Second Shelf, a rare book dealership specialising in works by female authors
This event is free, but tickets should be booked in advance via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/transatlantic-women-in-the-archives-tickets-48477512545 – All welcome!
This is a collaboration between the National Library of Scotland and the Transatlantic Literary Women Series (https://transatlanticladies.wordpress.com/), sponsored by the British Association for American Studies and the US Embassy.
Taking an awful chance: Isobel Hutchison in Alaska
This talk looks at Isobel Hutchison (1889-1982), a botanist, photographer, film-maker and poet who collected plant samples for the Royal Horticultural Society and the Natural History Museum. In 1933 she set off on an epic winter journey through Alaska and Arctic Canada, travelling by boat, plane and dog sled through extreme conditions, often alone, and documenting what she saw. She had already made trips to Alaska, Iceland and Greenland, but this was of a different order. ‘You took an awful chance travelling alone in these parts,’ was the comment of one seasoned (male) Arctic explorer. She recounted her journey in her book North to the Rime-Ringed Sun (1934): ‘I had heard the call of the wild on star-lit nights…and my heart beat for the wilderness.’
Behind the Scenes: Edith Wharton and the Movies
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) is perhaps best known for the film adaptions of her novels, The Age of Innocence and The House of Mirth. This talk looks “behind the scenes” of the better-known movie adaptations and their archives, touching on some classic films (The Old Maid, with Bette Davis) and more contemporary ones (The Age of Innocence, The House of Mirth, Ethan Frome), as well as some of the archival materials that went into the making and production of her novels.
Contrary to her popular reputation as an old-fashioned conservative, Wharton in fact pioneered or made visible writing about various social issues, some of which have become so common as to barely rate a glance (divorce, single parenthood), others that are as crucial today as they were then – not only social instability, addiction, and poverty but social cruelty, female “frenemies,” and sexual harassment – and still others that remain perennial subjects for film (blackmail, infidelity, and murder).
The Politics of Una Marson’s Archives
This talk will explore the experiences that historian Imaobong Umoren faced when conducting research on the Jamaican poet, broadcaster, journalist, playwright and activist Una Marson (1905-1965). It will focus on the ways in which power, marginalisation and erasure have shaped archives that house the work of Marson in Jamaica and the UK and how this has contributed to her legacy.
Feminize the Bookshelves: Redressing Gender Imbalance in the Rare Book Trade
The rare book trade has historically been male-dominated by “bookmen” who provide many of the archives and books to libraries, universities, and other institutions, as well as collector’s bookshelves. Their interests have been centered on a white, male, and western literary canon.
Women, particularly women of colour, are underrepresented in the trade and work by women is significantly less represented in rare book and auction catalogs and the prices for their work are not equivalent to their male contemporaries. Devers will look at the ways the book trade is beginning to redress the gender imbalance in the trade including her own venture, The Second Shelf.
Jenni Calder grew up in the USA and England, and has lived in or near Edinburgh since 1971. After several years as a part-time lecturer and freelance writer, in 1978 she joined what became the National Museums of Scotland, where she worked successively as education officer, publisher, script co-ordinator for the Museum of Scotland (opened 1998) and latterly as Head of Museum of Scotland International which focused on Scottish migration. She retired from NMS in 2001, since when she has returned to her previous freelance existence. She has been an active member of Scottish PEN for over 30 years.
She has published on literary and historical topics, including biographies of Robert Louis Stevenson and Naomi Mitchison. More recent non-fiction titles include Scots in Canada (Luath 2003); Scots in the USA (Luath, 2006); Not Nebuchadnezzar: In Search of Identities (Luath, 2005); Lost in the Backwoods; Scots and the North American Wilderness (EUP, 2013). As Jenni Daiches, she has published poetry in numerous magazines and in two collections: Mediterranean (Scottish Cultural Press, 1995) and Smoke (Kettilonia, 2005). Fiction includes Letters from the Great Wall (Luath, 2006); Forgive (Luath, 2015); Borrowed Time (Vagabond Voices, 2016). Forthcoming are Existential Edinburgh: An Eccentric Odyssey (non-fiction) and a revised edition of The Nine Lives of Naomi Mitchison.
Donna M. Campbell is a professor of English at Washington State University. She is the author of Resisting Regionalism: Gender and Naturalism in American Fiction, 1880-1915, and her essays on Edith Wharton, Jack London, and other figures have appeared in The Cambridge History of the American Novel, Edith Wharton in Context, The Journal of Popular Culture, Studies in American Fiction, American Literary Realism, Studies in American Naturalism, Legacy, and The Oxford Companion to Jack London. She is the associate editor of the 30-volume Complete Works of Edith Wharton (Oxford University Press), the volume editor for The House of Mirth in that series, and the lead editor for Digital Wharton, an ancillary website for the edition. Her most recent book is Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writings (University of Georgia Press, 2016).
Imaobong Umoren is Assistant Professor of International History of Gender at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is the author of Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles (2018).
A. N. Devers is a writer, arts journalist and rare book dealer based in London. Her first book, Train, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury next year. She has written for The Guardian, The New Yorker, New Republic, Lapham’s Quarterly, Prospect, Salon, Slate, Fine Books, and The Washington Post, among other publications.
Devers’ Longreads essay that originated as a tweet, “This is How a Woman is Erased From Her Job”, documented how The Paris Review editor Brigid Hughes was omitted from the magazine’s history as its second editor, and led to two New York Times corrections among many other corrections in newspapers, a correction to a staff biography at The New Yorker magazine, and the reinstatement of Hughes’s name to the masthead as a former editor of The Paris Review in the Spring 2018 issue. Her Tin House essay, “On the Outskirts” received a Notable Distinction in The Best American Essays 2011.
She is the owner of The Second Shelf, a new online and pop-up bookshop of rare books, modern first editions, and rediscovered works by women and the editor and publisher of The Second Shelf: A Quarterly of Rare Books and Words By Women.
Women in the Archives is a collaborative event between TLW and the National Library of Scotland (NLS), led by Anna Girling (University of Edinburgh), with Kirsty McHugh (Curator of the John Murray Archive, NLS) and Dora Petherbridge (Curator, US and Commonwealth Collections, NLS).