Mr Pond in Print

(Well, Mr Pond and a bunch of more interesting people.)

I’m very, very happy to be able to announce that Rethinking George MacDonald: Contexts and Contemporaries was published today, and is available for purchase at this link. This is an anthology I co-edited with Christopher MacLachlan and Ginger Stelle, and was published by the Association for Scottish Literary Studies as Vol. 17 of their excellent Occasional Papers series.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may remember when I co-organised a conference on George MacDonald. Well, that conference turned into an anthology and now you can read it for yourself. It’s a book that looks at MacDonald as a Victorian writer, rather than a proto-Inkling, and there’re a lot more of his books and topics and perspectives covered than you’ll see most anywhere else. If you want to read about How the Fairies were not Invited to Court, or Divine Alchemy, or Speaking Matrilineally, or even
George MacDonald and the Grave Livers, look no further: read this anthology.

I’m really very proud of this book.


Publisher’s Description (with the wonderful word ‘hitherto’ in):

George MacDonald (1824–1905) is the acknowledged forefather of later fantasy writers such as C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien: however, his place in his own time is seldom examined. This omission does MacDonald a grave disservice. By ignoring a fundamental aspect of what made MacDonald the man he was, the critical habit of viewing MacDonald’s work only in terms of his followers reinforces the long-entrenched assessment that it has a limited value – one only for religious enthusiasts and fantasy lovers.

The sixteen essays in this anthology seek to correct that omission, by looking directly at MacDonald the Victorian – at his place in the Victorian literary scene, at his engagement with the works of his literary contemporaries and at his interest in the social, political, and theological movements of his age. The resulting portrait reveals a MacDonald who deserves a more prominent place in the rich literary history of the nineteenth century than he has hitherto been given.

on the importance of being a snob

In response to Jenna St. Hilaire, ‘The Effects of Taste on Objective Criticism’ and Masha, ‘The Effects of Objective Criticism on Taste.’

Ladies and Gentleman, the announcement you’ve all been waiting for: the blogaletic is back.

This time, my sparring partner Jenna and I welcome a third to what is now the melee, Cynageria Masha, who is equally articulate in all things literary. Jenna launches her attack on Mondays, Masha parries and counter-attacks on Wednesdays, and I shall be the sinister figure in black sinisterly emerging from the shadows on Fridays.

This time, our subject is the nature of art and whether or not criticism can be objective. Jenna has this to say:

I believe that objective criticism is loosely possible—but loosely, and on the plainest levels. If Austen can be called out for lack of wit, we can suspect our taste of affecting even the simplest and most obvious critique. I’d say it’s important to understand that for humility if nothing else. No matter how educated, no matter how well-read, any of us can put forward wrong criticism.

Of course, the very idea that we can be wrong implies that there is right and wrong in the art of critique.

Masha replies:

Literature, by which I mean writing as an Art, must be objectively beautiful. To be beautiful, it must contain both Truth and Goodness. The standards for beauty, despite common misconceptions, are objective, and the study of beauty – Aesthetics – is something that can be undertaken by anyone, and is necessary for any serious writer to have at least a working knowledge of. In Literary criticism, an objective understanding of beauty is often what stands in the way of a purely subjective response to the work.

Aesthetic standards tell us what to look for in any work of art, whether written, sculpted, painted, or lived.

Good thoughts, all. Each slightly at odds with other. So, since you’ve all been waiting I’m sure, here’s what I think:

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a reply to Prof Wilmot

An anti-wednesday experiment in discourse

paperExplanation: What follows is an attempt at reaching a fuller understanding of anti-tale through a rigid form of process argumentation that I made up.

Beginning with a query and a tentative conclusion, usually arising from a text by significant scholar in the discipline, the argument suggests a series of theses that argue with and nuance the tentative conclusion. Each thesis is supported by an Argument, or evidence from a relevant text, and a Corollary, which usually contains the logic necessary to build one thesis on another.

Hopefully, this experiment will help illumine still further our understanding not only of anti-tale, but of tale and narration, particularly in regards the literature of mythopoeia.

For my query, I’ve chosen to examine E. A. Wilmot’s theory of anti-tale for reasons which should become obvious. The experiment begins below the jump.

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the how and the why

Today sees the Royal Visit of HRH Prince William and Ms. Kate Middleton to the University of St Andrews, and, in a fluke of history, finds me attending seminars on the other side of town.

Since the Royal Visit is getting a lot of attention everywhere else in the media, and in fact you’re probably watching the festivities on the telly right now, I thought you’d  like me to tell you about the seminars I’m attending.

You’re welcome.

OK—I just won’t even bother you with the morning seminar.* But the afternoon seminar sent me on a paradoxical quest to the library yesterday. The quest was simple. Find a newspaper article—said the seminar leader—derived from your field of research. Then find the academic piece of research the news article was derived from, and compare. So (the example said) find a Times article about findings originally presented in Nature.

Simple enough. Every major newspaper has an Arts section, right? I trotted happily down to the library to grab my favourite broadsheets. How difficult can it be to find an article about books?

Not difficult at all.

Except for the small bother that I couldn’t find anything.

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a george macdonald conference


I’m hosting a conference on George MacDonald, and you’re invited.

Together with my charming and (dauntingly) intelligent colleague Ginger Stelle, I’m delighted to announce that registration is open for George MacDonald Among His Contemporaries, a conference that promises to be a restructuring and important conversation on MacDonald studies. If you’re going to be in or near St Andrews at the end of March, please consider attending, we’d love to have you. If you’re not—well, here’s that perfect excuse you were looking for. We’d love to have you, too.

All relevant information follows below the jump:

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