L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory: Day 3

Guest post by Christine Chettle

My name is Christine Chettle, I’m a Ph.D. student at the University of Leeds in the UK, and this is my first time at an L.M. Montgomery conference. As a lifelong fan of L.M. Montgomery’s work, and particularly of her Emily trilogy (I named my pet hedgehog after Ilse Burnley because she kept climbing out of her cage), I was really excited to attend the 2012 Conference on L.M. Montgomery and Cultural Memory and share some of my work on Charlotte Brontë and the Emily books. However, I also felt quite shy, as I hardly knew anyone. But I shouldn’t have worried. L.M. Montgomery is a writer who knows all about the dynamics of community—both the pros and the cons—and because of this, perhaps, L.M. Montgomery lovers seem to share her sense of community, and in a particularly kind way. At this conference, there have been no Josie Pyes or Miss Brownells!

Throughout Day 3 of the conference, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on L.M. Montgomery’s connections with a number of differing communities. First of all, the educational community: Jennifer Litster, Benjamin Lefebvre, Tara Parmiter, Diane Tye, and Åsa Warnqvist all provided complementary insights into her interactions with various entities, discussing her connections to, respectively, an ambivalent Scots heritage, fluctuating audience receptions, traditions of ghost stories, processes of memory, and the dynamics of folklore. Later, thanks to the presence of Jean Ledwell and Lesley Clement in my panel session, I discovered her links to New Zealand literature and to visual art. Miss Stacy and Mr. Carpenter would definitely have approved.

Mr. Carpenter, with his enthusiasm for Emily’s PEI heritage, would also have enjoyed Sarah Gothie’s presentation on the Green Gables museum and Judy Plum (of the Pat books) would have loved Jean Mitchell’s exploration of Park Corner, PEI through the light of Silver Bush. A presentation from the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario gave an inspiring view of Montgomery’s influence beyond PEI in Leaskdale, Ontario. In the spirit of matriarchs Rachel Lynde and Miss Cornelia, they have nurtured Montgomery’s home in the Leaskdale community from a forgotten derelict to a thing of beauty (and with these ladies at the helm it will quite possibly be a joy forever).

At the conference banquet this evening, we had the opportunity to hear about Åsa and Stefan Warnqvist’s lovely romance. The conference coincides with a number of their anniversaries, falling as it does around the important Swedish celebration of Midsummer’s Eve: nine years ago they met, five years ago they became engaged, and four years ago they came to PEI for their honeymoon. This is a happily-ever-after that I can imagine Valancy and Barney Snaith enjoying!

My table at the banquet was the “international” table, representing Montgomery’s worldwide reputation in communities across five different countries (the conference included delegates from seven countries) apart from Canada. The international table included sa We laughed and talked exuberantly, sharing our passionate love of Montgomery, our earlier adventures with Montgomery-inspired YouTube clips and fan-fiction, and our speculations on vampires as cultural texts. Maybe at the next conference, we’ll start a newspaper, like the King children in the Story Girl books, or tame a lion, like Jane and her friends in Jane of Lantern Hill. But for tonight, we limited our adventures to the dance floor, where I tried out moves I generally only use in Zumba class to the sounds of Meaghan Blanchard’s inspired musicianship. If Anne Shirley had been there, I’m certain she would have done the same.

Throughout the whole conference, we’ve all been aware of Simon Lloyd’s and Pauline MacPherson’s fantastic guidance, and and this evening, all the delegates paid enthusiastic tribute to their work above and beyond the call of duty in nurturing and organizing this event. Like Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, they’ve made sure that everyone has found a home—however briefly—at the 2012 conference.

And then, of course, we all went to the pub….