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Publication of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Pioneer Girl

It’s been announced recently that the South Dakota State Historical Society Press is preparing an annotated edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s memoir “Pioneer Girl,” with plans to publish the book in June 2013. It’s being prepared by Pamela Smith Hill, author of the exceptional biography Laura Ingalls Wilder: A Writer’s Life, which I found filled with wonderful new insights and information about Wilder, her families, and her communities.

I started reading Wilder’s books as a boy, around the same time that I watched reruns of the TV show Little House on the Prairie on the nearest CBS affiliate. Unlike a number of readers of Wilder’s texts who detested the TV show due to the huge liberties taken with the story, I found both Little House worlds equally interesting, in spite of the differences in terms of medium and storytelling style (also, alas, the books did not have extreme close-ups of Pa crying). Moreover, I’ve continued to be interested in both adapted texts and adaptations as an adult. The TV show Little House on the Prairie remains a guilty pleasure, and I confess to enjoying the wide range of parodies and mash-ups I’ve seen on YouTube. My research in the field of Ingalls-Wilder-Lane studies hasn’t been extensive, except for a few review articles and a website that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, but this fall I’ll be publishing a chapter entitled “Our Home on Native Land: Adapting and Readapting Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie” in my latest collection of essays, Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature. (I went over the copy-edited version not too long ago and am currently waiting for proofs. The book should be out in August or September.)

This week I started rereading Wilder’s novel Farmer Boy (the one about Almanzo), partly because I haven’t reread it in ages and partly because I’m trying to make sense of a recent sequel entitled Farmer Boy Goes West. I’ve also had a blast reading recent memoirs by Melissa Gilbert, Alison Arngrim, and Melissa Anderson, three of the actors from the TV show. I always enjoy knowing more about the people behind texts or shows that I like—even (or especially) aspects that reveal them to be real human beings.

Anyway, I’m glad Pioneer Girl will finally be available in book form. I read parts of one draft on microfilm, and it was enough to convince me that it’s a significantly different story than the one told in Wilder’s autofiction. These differences are important, especially because of the misconception that Wilder’s books are straightforward autobiography or memoir. They are, in a sense, but without insisting on total historical accuracy. In the final analysis, they are not history, but story.

Wilder’s literary and cultural legacy shows no signs of slowing down. Her books are about to be reissued in the Library of America, in two paperback volumes and in a boxed set of hardcovers, both of which are definitely on my to-buy list. Her (largely negative) depiction of Native Americans is complex and complicated (at least to an extent), and it needs to be discussed more, especially since the novel Little House on the Prairie is still being bought for children. And while there have been numerous attempts to keep the story going by devising all kinds of prequels, sequels, interquels, sidequels, abridgments, and activity books, none of these offshoots—except for the TV show Little House on the Prairie—has endured. It’s Wilder’s own story that continues to be read, reread, and discussed as a particular slice of U.S. colonial history and children’s literature. And so having access to Wilder’s original first-person memoir, which she transformed into a set of children’s books after being unable to sell it, will add tremendously to our understanding of how this purportedly “true” story came to be shaped and reshaped.

A website for the Pioneer Girl Project has also been launched, and I for one look forward to seeing more details about this book as they become available.

UPDATE: Speaking of Laura Ingalls Wilder, my friend Melanie Fishbane has just published a guest blog entry on the excellent website Beyond Little House, which is the go-to place for everything Wilder-related. She discusses the chapter “Almanzo Says Good-By” from These Happy Golden Years and even throws in the weird-but-fascinating TV movie Beyond the Prairie: The True Story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, where the keyword “true” definitely belongs in quotation marks (but it’s fascinating nonetheless)

UPDATE 2: I guess I should mention that Mel and I actually drove to Dearborn, Michigan in November 2010 to see a Laura Ingalls Wilder exhibit there. You can read more about it in Mel’s blog post, where I’m the unidentified “friend.”

New Collection on Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature

I’m pleased to announce the forthcoming publication of my collection of essays Textual Transformations in Children’s Literature: Adaptations, Translations, Reconsiderations, which will be published in the Children’s Literature and Culture series by Routledge in Fall 2012.

This book offers new critical approaches for the study of adaptations, abridgments, translations, parodies, and mash-ups that occur internationally in contemporary children’s culture. It follows recent shifts in adaptation studies that call for a move beyond fidelity criticism, a paradigm that measures the success of an adaptation by the level of fidelity to the “original” text, toward a methodology that considers the adaptation to be always already in conversation with the adapted text. This book visits children’s literature and culture in order to consider the generic, pedagogical, and ideological underpinnings that drive both the process and the product. Focusing on novels as well as folktales, films, graphic novels, and anime, the authors consider the challenges inherent in transforming the work of authors such as William Shakespeare, Charles Perrault, L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and A.A. Milne into new forms that are palatable for later audiences particularly when—for perceived ideological or political reasons—the textual transformation is not only unavoidable but entirely necessary. Contributors consider the challenges inherent in transforming stories and characters from one type of text to another, across genres, languages, and time, offering a range of new models that will inform future scholarship.

Remembrance Day Blogs: Rilla and Walter

In honour of Remembrance Day, two recent blog entries have appeared discussing L.M. Montgomery’s depiction of the Great War in Rilla of Ingleside and The Blythes Are Quoted. First, Christine Chettle discusses Walter Blythe’s poems “The Piper” and “The Aftermath” on the website for the Centre for Canadian Studies at the University of Leeds:

Most famous for her tale of cheerful red-headed orphan Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery offers a more complicated view of the Canadian war experience. Like many of her contemporaries, the fiercely patriotic Montgomery viewed World War I as a struggle for liberty against a threat of evil from Kaiser’s Germany.

Next, Melanie Fishbane talks about Montgomery’s experience during the war in her fiction and her life writing on the Indigo website:

It is hard for us to imagine that one hundred years ago, the boys we grew up with, the men we may have worked with and our brothers, husbands and partners would have joined in the wake of that strong call to arms in the belief that Canada, as an English colony, was in real danger.  It is also hard to imagine, that many of those same men never came home.  If we consider Montgomery’s fictional world of Ingleside, as a representation of the different townships across Canada, than I think we will begin to understand the magnitude WWI (and subsequent wars) had on our nation’s history.

Rilla in Paperback!

I received my copies this week of the paperback edition of L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside, which I edited jointly with Andrea McKenzie and which was published in hardcover last October. The official street date is next Tuesday, 1 November 2011, but it’s already available for order at Amazon.ca and for purchase at bookstores. Order or buy your copy today!

Rilla of Ingleside—originally written as the final sequel to Anne of Green Gables—focuses on Rilla Blythe, the pretty and high-spirited youngest daughter of Anne Shirley. The novel paints a vivid and compelling picture of the women who battled to keep the home fires burning throughout the tumultuous years of the First World War. Using her own wartime experience, Montgomery recreates the laughter and grief, poignancy and suspense, struggles and courage of Canadian women at war. This special gift edition includes Montgomery’s complete, restored, and unabridged original text, as well as a thoughtful introduction from the editors, a detailed glossary, maps of Europe during the war, and war poems by L.M. Montgomery and her contemporary Virna Sheard.

“A tried-and-true wartime novel … Poignant, funny, sentimental, ironic, suspenseful, and heartbreaking.” —Toronto Star

“An essential purchase for all libraries, a wonderful read for adults and youth aged twelve and up, and a great resource for students of World War I. Highly recommended.” —CM Magazine

Visit the book’s official website and the book’s official Facebook page.

Anne of Prince Edward Island

In a journal entry dated March 1910, Montgomery mentioned that she had recently received a copy of the Swedish translation of Anne of Green Gables, which she found “interesting as a curiosity,” not because of the translated text but because of the bizarre cover image and design. Today I had a somewhat similar experience after receiving my copies of Ania z Wyspy Ksiecia Edwarda, the Polish translation of The Blythes Are Quoted, which was published a few months ago in both hardcover and paperback by Wydawnictwo Literackie in Crakow. For me, the “curiosity” was not the cover image, since the Polish edition simply duplicated the cover of the original hardcover edition, but the advertising copy used to entice readers to buy the book.

Although Montgomery wasn’t able to comment on the translation of the Swedish translation of Anne of Green Gables because she spoke no Swedish, a reader today has fewer obstacles in this regard, thanks to Google Translate. So it’s remarkably easy to figure out that the title of the Polish edition is Anne of Prince Edward Island, which I actually prefer to the title of the Finnish edition, Anne’s Farewell. In contrast to the deliberately provocative first line of the jacket copy of the English-language edition—“Adultery, illegitimacy, revenge, murder, and death—these are not the first terms we associate with L.M. Montgomery”—the Polish edition takes a remarkably different tack.

The tag on the front cover translates as “Previously unpublished final volume of adventures / Anne of Green Gables,” which is fairly similar to “The rediscovered last work of L.M. Montgomery.” On the back cover, they add an almost identical tag (“Last, never previously published volume of adventures / Anne of Green Gables”) followed by the following blurb:

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s wishes were to close the book series about the most famous red-haired heroine of all time. The text provided to the publisher just before the death of the author had never appeared in its entirety. Its premiere in Canada in 2009 created a sensation in the publishing market and delighted readers.

And then, right below this, in a larger font: “Get to know the fate of Ani, Gilbert and their loved ones!”

Is this a better marketing tack? I really don’t know, but I notice that if you type in “Ania z Wyspy Ksi?cia Edwarda” into Google, there are 810,000 hits, compared to 125,000 hits for “The Blythes Are Quoted.” What this indicates, however, is anybody’s guess.

Also, I’ve just been informed that the Kindle version of The Blythes Are Quoted is available again, but on Amazon.com only. I’m not sure why it’s available only there, but at least it can be ordered by Kindle readers all over the world. It’s also available as an e-book directly from Penguin Canada.

Rilla of Ingleside in Paperback!

I’m pleased to announce that the unabridged and fully annotated edition of Rilla of Ingleside, edited by Benjamin Lefebvre and Andrea McKenzie, will be published in paperback by Penguin Canada in November 2011! Pre-order your copy today!

Rilla of Ingleside—originally written as the final sequel to Anne of Green Gables—focuses on Rilla Blythe, the pretty and high-spirited youngest daughter of Anne Shirley. The novel paints a vivid and compelling picture of the women who battled to keep the home fires burning throughout the tumultuous years of the First World War. Using her own wartime experience, Montgomery recreates the laughter and grief, poignancy and suspense, struggles and courage of Canadian women at war. This special gift edition includes Montgomery’s complete, restored, and unabridged original text, as well as a thoughtful introduction from the editors, a detailed glossary, maps of Europe during the war, and war poems by L.M. Montgomery and her contemporary Virna Sheard.

“A tried-and-true wartime novel … Poignant, funny, sentimental, ironic, suspenseful, and heartbreaking.” —Toronto Star

“An essential purchase for all libraries, a wonderful read for adults and youth aged twelve and up, and a great resource for students of World War I. Highly recommended.” —CM Magazine

Visit the book’s official website and the book’s official Facebook page.

CFP: LauraPalooza 2012: What Would Laura Do?

[The call for papers for this exciting conference was posted recently on the website of Beyond Little House, an amazing resource for Ingalls-Wilder-Lane studies.]

The National Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association Conference

Sponsored by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association and the Department of Mass Media at Minnesota State University, Mankato

We invite submissions of paper, panel, and workshop proposals for review and possible acceptance for presentation at the second LauraPalooza conference, to be held on the campus of MSU, Mankato, July 12-14, 2012.

The theme of this year’s conference reflects the continuing interest in the lives and stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, particularly as related to American culture, history, values, and ideological practice. Participants may consider asking themselves, “What Would Laura Do?”

Topics may include:

  • The broad influence the stories have had on American popular culture in the last 75 years
  • The history of the books and their cultural, educational, political, and social influences
  • The renewed interest in women’s handwork as cultural artifacts of women’s history
  • The preservation of American folk music ways
  • The preservation of American food ways
  • The strategic and political influence of farming and farming culture in American history
  • The long-term ramifications of the 1862 Homestead Act on Western culture
  • The ever-widening circle of Lane’s politically Libertarian belief structures
  • Historical racism and its lasting effects
  • New discoveries in individual research that add to the Lane and Wilder legacies
  • Any other way you might interpret the legacies of Wilder and Lane.

Submit your proposal in the form of a 700- to 1,000-word abstract, outlining your idea and research, by midnight on December 15, 2011. All proposals should include a 200-word bio as would be appropriate for the conference program. Panel proposals should include bios for all panelists and his/her topic of discussion. Workshop proposals should include an outline of the workshop curriculum and materials needed.

We are also accepting proposals for presentations or programs for Camp Laura, an activity-based conference for elementary school children, running concurrently with Laurapalooza 2012. Please follow the same submission guidelines outlined above, but denote “Camp Laura” at the top of your abstract.

Be sure to include all contact information. Abstracts should be sent via email to amy.lauters@mnsu.edu, conference chair. Acceptance notifications will be sent out via email on the birthdate of Laura Ingalls Wilder: February 7. Those with accepted proposals will be expected to register for and attend the LauraPalooza 2012 conference. (Registration begins in February.)

[Find a PDF of the Call for Proposals here.]

Anne Shirley’s New Reach

Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables has received a glowing review in Canadian Literature: titled “Anne Shirley’s New Reach,” this review by Sean M. Saunders appeared on the Canadian Literature website earlier this week:

I took great pleasure in reading Anne’s World, a collection of compelling essays which situates the culturally familiar Anne Shirley within a range of perhaps unfamiliar and, at times, unexpected disciplinary and theoretical contexts. Engaging Anne’s status as a “classic” and an international “brand,” these contexts include fashion theory, early childhood education, clinical psychology and bibliotherapy, feminist ethics, cultural geography, and globalization studies. Linking such diverse critical perspectives is the volume’s focus on the “expansion of [Anne’s] world,” both during the last century (into realms such as film and television, tourism, and post-war colonialism) and in the present, as Anne’s expanding world carries her into new spheres of critical inquiry, and new digital markets and media.