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Author: Benjamin Lefebvre

New Anne Television Series Greenlit by CBC

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation announced yesterday that it had greenlit a new, eight-episode television series based on Anne of Green Gables. Entitled Anne, the project is expected to go into production this spring for release sometime in 2017. The project will be created and written by Moira Walley-Beckett, who received an Emmy Award for her work as a writer on the television series Breaking Bad and who will serve as executive producer alongside Miranda de Pencier, Alison Owen, and Debra Hayward.

At its heart, ANNE is a coming-of-age story about an outsider who, against all odds and numerous challenges, fights for acceptance, for her place in the world and for love. The drama series centres on a young orphaned girl who, after an abusive childhood spent in orphanages and the homes of strangers, is mistakenly sent to live with an elderly spinster and her aging brother. Over time, 13-year-old Anne will transform their lives and eventually the small town in which they live, with her unique spirit, fierce intellect and brilliant imagination. While the new series will follow a similar storyline to the book that millions of readers around the world know and love, it will also chart new territory. Anne and the rest of the characters in and around Green Gables will experience new adventures reflecting timeless issues, including themes of identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice, and trusting one’s self.

This story has been reported widely, in venues including The Hollywood Reporter, The Toronto StarVariety, Entertainment Weekly, Entertainment Tonight Canada, The Guardian, the National PostQuill and Quire, and Jezebel. The satiric website The Beaverton has also commented on this development, in a news story entitled “CBC Courts Younger Viewers with Another Reboot of 100 Year Old Novel”:

“Kids these days are done with stories where things happen,” said CBC consultant and world’s oldest child psychologist Obadiah Sugarman. “We’ll finally be giving them the stiff Victorian morality that I assume is in vogue. Not to mention, doing a period piece is a great way to make sure white people are adequately represented on television.”

“I can’t wait for yet more Anne,” enthused 22 year-old Alexandra Lewis, who has only been alive for 7 of Anne’s over two dozen adaptations. “Honestly there’s no better use of public funds than promoting the work of a long-dead, already immensely popular author.”

Jokes aside, what few if any of these reports has mentioned is that a new telefilm version of Anne of Green Gables by Toronto company Breakthrough Productions is already in post-production and is expected to air on YTV in the months to come, or that a film version of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical was announced as in development in September 2013. And what none of the sites reporting on this story has noted, as far as I know, is that producer Miranda de Pencier portrayed Josie Pye in three Anne of Green Gables miniseries by Sullivan Entertainment.

The L.M. Montgomery Reader: Three-Volume Set

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volumes 1–3, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre
The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volumes 1–3, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre

I’m pleased to announce that all three volumes of my critical anthology The L.M. Montgomery Reader are now available as a hardcover set from University of Toronto Press!

A tremendous resource for fans and scholars alike, the three-volume The L.M. Montgomery Reader gathers together a captivating selection of material, much of it recently rediscovered, on the life, work, and critical reception of one of Canada’s most enduringly popular authors.

Collecting material on Montgomery’s life (Volume One), her critical reputation (Volume Two), and reviews of her books (Volume Three), leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre traces the interplay between the author and the critic, as well as between the private and the public Montgomery. Each volume includes an extensive introduction and detailed commentary on the documents that provides the context for these primary sources, many of them freshly unearthed from archives and digital collections and never before published in book form.

These volumes have received tremendous praise from reviewers:

“While Lefebvre’s The L.M. Montgomery Reader is a vital resource of primary sources from and secondary assessments of one of Canada’s most popular twentieth-century authors, it is his insightful and knowledgeable analysis that shapes and gives meaning to the collection. . . . The depth of his knowledge results in a work that is as comprehensible as it is comprehensive.” –André Narbonne, American Review of Canadian Studies

“Lefebvre’s archival research is thorough and often brilliant, making the Reader an invaluable trove not only for Montgomery scholars but also for those working with the reception history of Canadian writers, especially women before Laurence, Munro, and Atwood. For Montgomery completists, the Reader is irresistible. For those engaged in Montgomery studies or Canadian literature more generally, it is invaluable.” –Anne Furlong, University of Toronto Quarterly

“With this volume, Lefebvre broadens our understanding of Montgomery’s reception and reputation both within Canada and internationally, unearthing previously obscure content and commentary and making it accessible to a far wider audience. This reader will thus prove a valuable resource to both existing and future scholars of Montgomery’s work and life, as well as those fans keen for a little more insight into the ever-elusive figure of L.M. Montgomery.” –Sarah Galletly, British Journal of Canadian Studies

“Lefebvre has uncovered a cache of new, important material in an already impressive and crowded field of Montgomery scholarship. . . . His sensitive editing of the material brings the public side of Montgomery into better focus as she fields endless questions about how she became a writer, how Anne came to be and whether or not she was a real girl and what the author thought of young women in her day. [This book will] deepen our knowledge and understanding of this beloved Canadian icon.” –Laurie Glenn Norris,Telegraph–Journal (Saint John, NB)

“Lefebvre has thoroughly mined earlier scholars’ bibliographies and online newspaper archives to find reviews in periodicals from eight different countries, including the Bookman (London), the Globe (Toronto) and Vogue (New York). . . . Collectively, these reviews . . . represent a superb barometer of [Montgomery’s] fluctuating cultural value as a writer.” –Irene Gammel, The Times Literary Supplement

The three-volume set as well as individual volumes can be obtained directly from University of Toronto Press or from your local bookseller.

30 November 1874

L.M. Montgomery in her early forties, 1917
L.M. Montgomery in her early forties, 1917

Today, on what would have been L.M. Montgomery’s 141st birthday (she was born on 30 November 1874), I would like to share with you an extract from a journal entry dated exactly 101 years ago, on the occasion of Montgomery’s fortieth birthday:

Once I thought forty must be the end of everything. But it isn’t! I don’t feel any older today than yesterday—when I was only 39! Or the day before yesterday when I was—19! Thank God we don’t feel old. Life is much richer, fuller, happier, more comfortable for me now than it was when I was twenty. I have won the success I resolved to win twenty years ago. It is worth the struggle—but I would not wish to be twenty again with the struggle still before me.

Poster for L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment
Poster for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, produced by Breakthrough Entertainment

Montgomery is trending on the Internet as I write this, due in large part to several Google Doodles paying tribute to Anne of Green Gables. And as Melanie J. Fishbane has pointed out in a blog post published earlier this afternoon, this is an exciting time for Montgomery and especially for Anne, thanks to the upcoming new telefilm version of Anne of Green Gables, a shout-out about the novel in a recent episode of The Simpsons, and numerous celebrity mentions. A list of “Five Fast Facts You Need to Know” about Montgomery was also published today, on the website Heavy, and mentions her rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted.

I’m glad, because all this media attention reflects the continued relevance and the persistent quality of Montgomery’s writing, not only as works of literature but also as the basis for an enduring popular culture icon and a set of new Anne texts for stage and screen. I’m looking forward to delving back into the novel Anne of Green Gables next term, when I  teach the book in an undergraduate children’s literature course at Wilfrid Laurier University, as an example of a crossover text that continues to appeal to both adults and children.

Rilla of Ingleside on Remembrance Day

Cover art for Rilla of Ingleside, published by McClelland and Stewart (Canada) and Frederick A. Stokes Company (USA) in 1921.
Cover art for Rilla of Ingleside, published by McClelland and Stewart (Canada) and Frederick A. Stokes Company (USA) in 1921.

“And you will tell your children of the Idea we fought and died for—teach them it must be lived for as well as died for, else the price paid for it will have been given for naught. This will be part of your work, Rilla. And if you—all you girls back in the homeland—do it, then we who don’t come back will know that you have not ‘broken faith’ with us.”

Movie Poster for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green GablesThis movie poster for Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming telefilm L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables was released this week via Twitter by “Anne” herself, Ella Ballentine! No news yet on a broadcast date on YTV (or outside Canada), but the fact that it appears with the subtitle “Holiday Special” indicates that it may be released by the end of 2015.

First Trailer for L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

A first trailer for Breakthrough Entertainment’s upcoming telefilm L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables has been added to its corporate website. The ninety-minute telefilm stars Ella Ballentine as Anne, Sara Botsford as Marilla, and Martin Sheen as Matthew. Stay tuned for information about its release in Canada and around the world!

L.M. Montgomery Day 2015 in Leaskdale

Please join us in Leaskdale, Ontario, on Saturday, 24 October 2015, for the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario’s annual L.M. Montgomery Day, which commemorates Montgomery’s arrival in Leaskdale as a minister’s wife in October 1911.

This year’s theme is Maud’s Landscapes: The Effect of Nature on Her Writing, and the schedule of events is as follows:

8:45 a.m.: Coffee and Registration

9:30 a.m.: Melanie Whitfield, President, LMMSO, Welcome; Gwen Layton, LMMSO, “Maud in the Garden: L.M. Montgomery’s Sense of Place in Her Leaskdale Literary Landscape”

10:00 a.m.: Melanie Fishbane, “Fairy Slopes and Phantom Shadows: L.M. Montgomery as Teen Poet”

10:35 a.m.: Vanessa Brown, “Hester Gray’s Garden”

11:10 a.m.: Break

11:25 a.m.: Benjamin Lefebvre, “In Lands Afar: L.M. Montgomery and the Re-creation of Prince Edward Island in Ontario”

12:00 p.m.: Lunch

1:00 p.m.: Kate Macdonald Butler, “Reflections on Filming Anne of Green Gables in 2015”

1:30 p.m.: Launch of L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911–1942, including remarks by editors Rita Bode and Lesley D. Clement

3:00 p.m.: Book signing and refreshments

4:00 p.m.: Walk to Rainbow Valley and Tour of the Leaskdale Manse

To obtain more information and to register, please visit the website for the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario.

Announcing the publication of L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911–1942

L.M. Montgomery's Rainbow ValleysCongratulations to Rita Bode and Lesley D. Clement on their new collection of essays, L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911–1942, which has just been published by McGill-Queen’s University Press! The volume consists of fourteen chapters of original scholarship by Kate Macdonald Butler, Mary Beth CavertLesley D. Clement, Melanie J. Fishbane, Natalie Forest, Caroline E. Jones, E. Holly Pike, Laura M. Robinson, Linda Rodenburg, Margaret Steffler, Kate Sutherland, William V. Thompson, Elizabeth Waterston, and Emily Woster, as well as an interlude by Katherine Cameron, an introduction by the volume editors, and an appendix by the volume editors with assistance from Kristina Eldridge and Chloe Verner.

“With its interest in placing Montgomery’s work in new cultural and historical contexts, L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys expands our understanding of this canonical Canadian author. Although there is no disputing that PEI had an enduring impact on Montgomery’s literary sensibility, Ontario played its part too, as the essays in this collection abundantly reveal.” –Janice Fiamengo, University of Ottawa

CFP: Crossover Texts (conference panel; deadline 1 November 2015)

The Fall 2015 newsletter of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) includes my member-organized panel on Crossover Texts, which I proposed for the 2016 conference that will take place on 28–31 May 2016, during the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences held at the University of Calgary. Proposals and inquiries are warmly welcomed—there would certainly be lots of ways to connect with L.M. Montgomery’s life, work, and legacy! The deadline for submissions is 1 November 2015.

Crossover Texts
Organizer: Benjamin Lefebvre (Ryerson University)

The term “crossover fiction” refers usually to texts that cross the boundary between children’s literature and adult literature, in terms of target readership and genre. While there are countless examples of texts that were published for one group but embraced by readers of all ages, the term can also be applied to texts that require some form of textual transformation and texts that fit imperfectly within textual categories.

For this panel, I invite proposals for papers that consider crossover texts of any kind and by authors of any cultural group, including the following:

  • Adaptations or reworkings across media (including oral storytelling, commodities, and tourism) or within one medium;
  • Adaptations across genres and readerships, such as YA novels made into films for a general audience;
  • Transmedia storytelling and questions of authorship, ownership, and branding;
  • New and/or transnational editions, including attempts to revise problematic older texts and to redesign books from one genre to fit within another;
  • Versions across authors’ careers, including shifts from periodical to book publication and authors’ revisitations of their own work;
  • Movements from “high” (literary) genres to “low” genres (fantasy, romance, detective) and formats (comics and graphic novels);
  • Texts by minoritized authors that cross over from niche publishing to mainstream success;
  • Rewrites across cultures, national boundaries, and age-based readership categories, including revisionist texts, mash-ups, and parodies.

Please send the following to the panel organizer at benjamin.lefebvre@ryerson.ca by 1 November 2015: a file containing a 300- to 500-word paper proposal, with no identifying marks of any kind; a file containing a 100-word abstract and a 50-word biographical statement; the 2016 Proposal Information Sheet available on the ACCUTE website. You must be an ACCUTE member in good standing to apply for a member-organized session.