L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory: Day 2

Guest post by Melanie Fishbane

My name is Melanie Fishbane and I am thrilled to be writing my first blog post for the L.M. Montgomery Research Group. I’ll be giving you my impressions of the second day of the L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory Conference. By the way, if you want a more in-depth play-by-play of the day’s events, do follow the #lmmi2012 or #lmmipei hashtags on Twitter.

Alas, I was a little behind today with my tweeting, having walked to the conference with my travel companion and roommate and was a little late for the first speaker. Those who know me know that I am not a morning person. Getting anywhere for 9 AM is a feat in itself. But arrive we did and listened to papers that both stimulated and stirred our imaginations.

The first special panel was on Memory, Communities and Readers.  From memories of family vacations that led to lobster trap coffee tables, to finding that rare edition in the most unlikely of places,  Davida Mackay, Christy Woster, Jeanne Kaye Speight and Mary Beth Cavert recounted how L.M. Montgomery’s works had influenced their lives.

The Keynote panel that followed was a mixture of sadness and joy for us.  Because of a recent death in the family, one of the rockstars of Montgomery scholarship, Elizabeth Waterston, was unable to attend the conference. However, her editorial buddy and dear friend, Mary Rubio, read Waterston’s paper, “L.M. Montgomery’s Journals: Changes in Cultural Landscape, 1982–2012” out loud, providing her own commentary as well. I shall not lie: when Rubio held up the newly revised The Complete Journals of L.M. Montgomery: The PEI Years, 1889–1900, I did a little jig in my seat. I simply cannot wait until tomorrow when there will be a book release party with Rubio signing copies of the new edition. The geek girl in me is squealing.

Elizabeth (Betsy) Epperly followed with a brilliant discussion on “Remembering Home: Memory, Meaning and Metaphor in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Ingleside,” which was so amazing that it made me want to run home and read it right away. Also, just when she started to talk about the last two paragraphs of the last novel that Montgomery published in her lifetime, the lights went out.

The afternoon panel discussions continued to delight us as we discussed concepts of memory, re-interpreting truths, and asking ourselves “what is Montgomery’s ‘true voice’?”  Vappu Kannas discussed versions of memory while editing Montgomery’s selected journals and William Thompson explored social resistance and psychic re-visioning in the Emily books. While Cynthia Sugars talked about hauntings and ghost stories in The Story Girl, giving me pause when thinking about this morning’s “electric failure.”

The final panel of the afternoon were two fascinating papers by Andrea McKenzie and Yoshiko Akamatsu about Montgomery’s posthumously published novel, The Blythes Are Quoted. And our blogger from yesterday, Vanessa Brown, did an excellent job describing her detective work in finding a ledger that is connected to Montgomery’s suicide note. (See, Vanessa? No reason not to be kind!) These insightful papers give us much to ponder about Montgomery’s last novel and her final days.

Then we all brown bagged it and hopped on the bus to Belfast for a quick visit to the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead,  where Montgomery once visited and met Canada’s Governor General, Earl Grey—the story has to do with them sitting on the steps of an outhouse and people avoiding it as they didn’t want to disturb the GG in his discussion.  We really wanted to know where that outhouse was, but there were way too many mosquitos out tonight to do an adequate search of the property.

The night ended with an intimate evening of music at St. Paul’s Church for the Festival of Small Halls, a local musical festival where musicians from Atlantic Canada play at local small venues. Built in 1824, the church still had some of its original markings. It was beautiful and the sound was incredible. Dylan Guthro, Irish Mythen, Nathan Wiley and Matt Minglewood charmed the audience with their folk and blues medleys and good humour. L.M. Montgomery conference attendees were specifically welcomed by the organizers who mentioned that Montgomery’s husband, Ewan Macdonald, had lived in the area before they were married  and that one of the members of the church actually lived in the house!

I cannot wait for tomorrow which not only includes a silent auction and our banquet, but more informative and interesting papers on this fascinating topic of Montgomery and cultural memory.

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