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Home > Archived Newsletter Messages > Nancy Weyant eNewsletter No. 4

Archived Newsletter Messages

Nancy Weyant eNewsletter No. 4

Sent: February 2, 2011

eNewsletter No.  4                                                                                                                                                      February 1, 2011
2010 was an exciting scholarly year for Gaskellians – a year full of both small and grand events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Elizabeth Cleghorn Stevenson Gaskell.  Special exhibits at the Portico Library and the John Rylands Library; dramatic presentations; lectures and round-table discussions by prominent Gaskell scholars; an architectural profile of the history and the restoration of 84 Plymouth Grove; a range of events at Brook Street Chapel; a Gaskell Study Day at the University of Sheffield; a garden party and a flower festival; walking tours in Knutsford, Manchester and Brussels; concerts; and, especially, the dedication of a commemorative stained glass window in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey combined to fill this remarkable year.  The euphoria generated by these events sadly was dampened by the passing of two women important to the literary and human Gaskell family: Joan Leach MBE (founder and Honorary Secretary of the Gaskell Society) and Rosemary Dabbs (great-great granddaughter of Elizabeth Gaskell and Patron of the Manchester Historic Buildings Trust).  To review coverage of the bicentennial events and brief profiles of these two remarkable women, visit the “Bicentenary Events” page on the
Gaskell Society Website
In 2003 at the Gaskell Conference at Durham, I made a presentation profiling “A Decade of Gaskell Scholarship, 1992-2001.”  In that talk, I reported that conducting a keyword search of “Elizabeth Gaskell” on the Internet using several different search engines generated between 6,856 and 34,118 “hits”.   By the time I reported on patterns of scholarship from 2002-2007 at the Canterbury Conference, these numbers had jumped from “about” 67,400 to 309,000.  Today, that same search generated between some 365,000 and 542,000 “hits”.  Following the links will take one to a wide range of reputable information sources (biographical sources, plot summaries, entire works, photographs, literary criticism, conference presentations, offerings of thousands of bookstores, -even vita for faculty teaching courses that include works by Gaskell).  Disturbingly, however, those links can also take one to over 200 web sites that sell term papers.  Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell is now among the authors thus marketed.  YES – one can now purchase book reports, term papers, dissertation proposals and EVEN entire dissertations on the works of Elizabeth Gaskell.  Some of these businesses soften their sales pitch with the spurious suggestion that buying one of their well-written papers will help you write a better paper on your own.  (RIGHT!)  Others are more forthright.  These entrepreneurs use phrases such as “Written by our experienced writers,” describing their “product” as “high-quality, custom written and research-based term papers” while claiming to employ “Writers holding PhD and Master's degrees, along with writing experience of no less than 25 years, to work upon your term papers.”   Another posts this claim, “For nearly a decade, we've written hundreds of doctoral-level thesis papers and dissertations for research—24 hours a day, 7 days a week—on incredibly intricate topics.  Our ‘Elizabeth Gaskell’ researchers are highly-educated specialists with impeccable research and writing skills who have vast experience in preparing doctoral-level research materials.  Equipped with proper tools, statistical software, and sources of reference, we write dissertations and theses that are one-of-a-kind, innovative, accurate, and up-to-date.  In addition to regular libraries, our professional researchers have access to online, member-only research libraries that contain millions of books, journals, periodicals, magazines, and vast information on every conceivable ‘Elizabeth Gaskell’ subject.  And remember, we can research ANY topic, of ANY length, at ANY level, for virtually ANY delivery date—guaranteed!”  The cost of these term paper mills vary but the one that specializes in theses and dissertations has a rate of “only” $18/page IF they can have more than 30 days to write it.  If you need a paper no longer than 15 pages, you can have it in 24 hours for $35/page.  This same site talks about their “respect for the customer” and their “academic integrity”.  Having attended a college with an honor code and having applied that concept to all aspects of my life, I find myself bristling at this latter phrase.  Clearly they are comfortable passing the concept of academic responsibility on to the “respected customer”.  I acknowledge that I am a bit of an academic elitist.  I also am NOT naive.  Term papers have been bought, sold and recycled on college campuses for decades.  Nonetheless, I am saddened by this development in general and by Gaskell’s inclusion in particular.
Over the forty-plus years I worked as a reference librarian, I noticed a basic publishing pattern for literary figures and certain specific literary works.  The works of authors like Shakespeare, Milton, Hawthorne and Faulkner tend to attract a steady level of literary criticism.  Others (like Wilkie Collins, George Orwell, Edgar Allen Poe, and “our” Elizabeth Gaskell) are subject to a variety of external influences.  Whenever there is a centenary or bicentenary celebration of the birth or death of some authors (as we just saw for Gaskell in 2010) or a similar connection to the publication of a particular work (Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or George Orwell’s 1984) the volume of literary criticism focusing on that author or that work increases dramatically, after which it settled back to a “normal” level of attention.  Regarding Gaskell, for the first five months of her bicentenary year, I located 43 books, book chapters, journal articles and theses using a range of online indexing resources.  To date, since June, I have located 95 NEW sources on Gaskell’s life and/or her writings.  (Of these, 4 are books, 33 are book chapters, 38 are journal articles, 10 are PhD dissertations and 10 are M.A. or B.A. Honors theses).  I say, “to date” because, as I have noted before, while online indexing has dramatically decreased the time lag between when an item is published and when it is indexed (and therefore readily retrievable), we must remember that there IS still a time lag between publication and indexing.  Additionally, many book chapters are not separately indexed, especially those that are not in edited collections of essays.  Accordingly, in 2011 and probably into 2012, there will continue to be scholarship published that can trace their genesis to the bicentenary of Elizabeth Gaskell’s birth.
In the opening essay of Elizabeth Gaskell, Victorian Culture, and the Art of Fiction: Original Essays for the Bicentenary, Alan Shelston explores the topic, “Where Next in Gaskell Studies?”  While he used the bicentenary to look both back and forward, permit me to use it to just look back at the last six months. In my June e-Newsletter, I profiled discernable patterns to scholarship published during the first months of 2010.  What, then, are the patterns for the rest of the bicentenary year?  Firstly, among those sources published since June, one book of essays (edited by Sandro Jung) and an entire issue of an international online journal (
GRAAT On-line: Mrs. Gaskell in Context) are specifically and entirely linked to Gaskell’s bicentenary.  The 2010 issue of The Gaskell Journal is expanded beyond its normal size, again reflecting the heightened scholarly interest generated by Gaskell in the past year.  Additionally, its cover illustration features the commemorative stained glass window now installed in Westminster Abbey.
The book chapters, journal articles and dissertations identified during the last six months focus on an interesting range of topics: business and economic issues such as labor disputes, insurance, and risky commerce; diseases and illnesses that challenged the health of Victorian society; aspects of masculinity and femininity; linguistics and literacy; gender and class; comedy and humour; fashion, cross-dressing and hair; and significant historical events, including the Irish famine and the English Civil War.  Gaskell’s relationship to other writers is another focus. Specifically there are comparisons with Austen, Wordsworth, Hawthorne, Trollope, and Dickens.  Those comparing novels by Gaskell with novels by Dickens make somewhat different pairings than have been traditionally made (Domby and Son with North and South, Our Mutual Friend with Sylvia’s Lovers and Hard Times with Mary Barton).  There is a core of shorter fiction that regularly is analyzed that continues to be freshly explored: “The Old Nurse’s Story”, “The Grey Woman”, “Lizzie Leigh”, Libby Marsh’s Three Eras”, “Moorland Cottage”, “The Poor Clare”, “The Doom of the Griffiths” and “Lois the Witch”.  Interestingly, there also are several short works that have been examined during the last six months that less frequently are the focus of  scholars: “Company Manners”, “My French Master” “French Life”, “The Crooked Branch”, “Sketches among the Poor”, and “A Fear for the Future”.  Literary analysis of Cranford declined a bit (ten). Mary Barton has attracted the most attention (twenty-seven), followed by North and South (seventeen) and Wives and Daughters (twelve).
It is an interesting exercise to conduct a mini-census of the authors of the ninety-five new sources I located.  As was the case with the authors of the publications from the first half of the bicentenary year, these authors include a selection of men and woman who are considered major, well-established Gaskell scholars.  Others are individuals who have begun to build upon theses and/or dissertations which they wrote as graduate students, moving purposefully forward and publishing one or more articles and book-chapters during the last six months.  Significantly, many are “first-timers” – young scholars who represent the next generation of Gaskellians, bringing to the life and writings of Elizabeth Gaskell a fresh gaze.  The geographical range is expanding.  In addition to the countries long and well represented in the Gaskell Society and in Gaskell studies (England, United States, Japan, Italy, France) and countries regularly represented but in smaller numbers (Australia, and Canada), scholars from Poland, Ireland, Wales, New Zealand, Sweden, The Netherlands, Indonesia, Turkey and Israel have emerged.  Clearly, Elizabeth Gaskell’s international appeal is growing.
Last June, I listed the new sources at the end of my Newsletter to facilitate a quick review and also integrated them into the full bibliographic supplement accessed from the “Bibliographic Supplement” link on my Web site.  After careful consideration of how to provide easy access for those familiar with the previously listed publications and therefore were only interested in the additions without making the Newsletter unwieldy, I decided to provide two buttons at the bottom of the “
Gaskell Bibliography
” page.  One (“Gaskell Bibliographic Supplement”) will give you access to all resources I have located that were published from 2002 to date.  The other (“Recent Additions”) will enumerate just those resources identified since my last six-month update. In either, you can do a “Search and Find” to identify scholarship of any given work or theme/topic.
AGAIN, please note: In March, 2009 the MLA issued the 7th edition of its Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Because this project began in 2004, publications enumerated in my Bibliographic Supplement follow the style guidelines from the 6th edition. The publications below do so as well. If you should use any of these, do remember to check the 7th edition for proper style when citing them. In time, I will make the appropriate modifications.  Within the year, I hope to be able to revise my bibliographic supplement to comply with the new format.
Lastly, I would like to express my appreciation to several individuals who contacted me regarding new publications on Gaskell or assisted me with information that made it possible for me to locate some of the sources enumerated in “Recent Additions.  When my copy of the Gaskell Journal failed to arrive in central Pennsylvania, Mary Kuhlman scanned the contents pages from her copy and e-mailed them to me.  Alan Shelston graciously sent me a copy of his Brief Lives: Elizabeth Gaskell.   Veronica Hoyt sent me an e-mail about Volume 9 of GRAAT On-Line being devoted entirely to Elizabeth Gaskell and Irene Wiltshire sent me information about an e-book on Mary Barton.  In the process of tracking it down, I located yet another e-book with a chapter on Mary Barton.  When I tripped over a reference to an article published in the Trollopiana and my library’s inter-library loan unit could not locate a copy for me, Pamela Morgan of the Trollope Society sent me a complimentary copy of the publication. Such assistance is much appreciated.   

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