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The Changing Perception of L.M. Montgomery's Writing (con't.)

book The Years Before Anne by Dr. F.W.P. BolgerAcademic appraisal of Montgomery was fairly patronizing if not hostile in the 1940's, 50's, and 60's until Elizabeth Waterston's landmark essay in 1966 in a collection called The Clear Spirit. Still the academy was not ready to take many women writers seriously and certainly not ones who had been such recent best sellers who appealed to children. A few voices dissented and made serious study of Montgomery's work. Dr. F.W.P. Bolger's book The Years Before Anne (1974) traced some of Montgomery's early publications and noted her genius for narrative. Mollie Gillen found Montgomery's correspondence to G.B. MacMillan of Scotland and made those wonderful letters the basis for an appreciative biography, The Wheel of Things, in 1975.

But it was not until the Women's Movement had challenged the canon to include women writers and to look with suspicion at the distinctions between supposed high-brow and middle-brow writing that critics were prepared to reconsider why Montgomery has remained so perennially popular.

This critical openness came at exactly the right moment. L.M. Montgomery's son, Dr. Stuart Macdonald, invited Canadian scholar Dr. Mary Rubio to edit Montgomery's journals for publication. She enlisted prominent academic Dr. Elizabeth Waterston, and the two began to co-edit Montgomery's private journals. Using a wide-ranging scholarship and a feminist perspective, they brought out the first volume to rave reviews in 1985. A new era in Montgomery studies and appreciation began.

books book A Life and Its Mirrors by Gabriella Åhmansson book The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass by Dr. Elizabeth Rollins Epperly The academic and popular audiences read the journals in fascination, (re)discovering a woman of wit, acerbity, shrewd analysis, and wide-ranging interests. Four volumes of journals (1985, 1987, 1992, 2000) created a new audience for Montgomery and enriched the one already enthralled with her writing. A feminist perspective encouraged new readings of the subtexts of the novels. The academic journal that Drs. Rubio and Waterston support, CCL: Canadian Children's Literature, continues to take an important role in publishing new criticism of Montgomery's work.

New studies appeared. Gabriella Åhmansson in Sweden published a feminist analysis of the early novels of Montgomery as A Life and Its Mirrors in 1991 that sold out quickly. In 1992, Dr. Elizabeth Rollins Epperly published The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass: L.M. Montgomery's Heroines and the Pursuit of Romance, a study of all of Montgomery's novels; in 2002 that book is still selling to academics and enthusiasts.


Introduction | Adventures in Collecting | L.M. Montgomery's Works | Changing Perception of Montgomery's Writing | A Writer's Visual Imagination | Inspiring Others
go to LM Montgomery Institute at UPEI Website go to University of Guelph Website go to Lucy Maud Montgomery Birthplace Website go to Virtual Museum of Canada Website go to Confederation Centre of the Arts Website go to National Library of Canada Website go to English Home Page go to French Homepage go to Virtual Museum of Canada Website