Saturday, January 16, 2016

Times Literary Supplement, May 21st 2004

I enjoy the TLS for the quality of its writing and erudition and I like being reminded that when I think I know a few things, relatively speaking I know nothing. Many of the reviews are taking on fairly arcane differences of opinion on a subject of which I have scarcely an inkling - so, in that spirit, here are some things of which I have now heard.

Margaret Cavendish (neé Lucas, 1623-1673) was an exceptionally prolific writer at a time when women scarcely wrote at all. Dubbed "Mad Madge", in a presciently Fleet Street manner, for her forcefully held somewhat unconventional opinions, she has since become increasingly well-regarded.

Michèle Le Doeuff's "The Sex of Knowing" addresses the gendered nature of simply being educated. The review of the book begins by explaining the term "bluestocking", once an insult applied by aristocrats to the Cromwellian men who wore their comfortable home woolens to Parliament (picture contemporary rural representatives being called "the sweat pants brigade" or something to that effect), it later became applied only to women. The book itself discusses examples like the epikleros, a Greek term for "a daughter of a man who had no male heirs" and so might inherit [wiki]. The author coins the term "epicleracy" to describe the set of women for whom that was case being more likely to be allowed to be educated.

Wace, a mononymic writer of the 12th century, is best known for "the Roman de Brut, a verse history of Britain, the Roman de Rou, a verse history of the Dukes of Normandy". He wrote in Norman, an Old French regional language, part of a group that includes variations in the channel islands of Jersey and Guernsey -  Jèrriais, in the former, is still in declining use. Scholars of the 18th and 19th centuries attempted to impose an additional name, so he is sometimes called Robert Wace, though the historical support for this is disputed.

Nicholas Basbanes on the "gentle madness" of book collecting - someone I need to know more about!

Frances Hodgson Burnett, an Englishwoman who moved to America, wrote dozens of books, made lots of money, had a celebrity life, gave us "Little Lord Fauntleroy".

John Fowles' journals of the 1950s might be worth a look as another alienated Englishman of that era - his first literary success did not come until age 37, so he had lots of time to be resentful.

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