I still remember the view from the lectern as I stood before the audience and presented my paper at the Delta Prince Edward Hotel [2008 LMMI Conference]. Despite my Japanese accent, the audience members and fellow presenters were very kind to me. I realized that we all belonged to the same community of people who love Montgomery and her works, and that I hadn’t needed to feel hesitant about speaking out if I had something to say. It was the turning point of my scholarly life.
–Yoshiko Akamatsu (Notre Dame Seishin University), “My Turning Point”
In “Envisioning Kindred Spirits: Anne Shirley’s Imagined Community,” a video by Julie Sellers (Benedictine College) on the Vision Forum, she talks about how kindred spirits, “a community of like-minded people, even though they cannot see [each other],” are at the heart of Montgomery’s fiction and legacy. It is not surprising, therefore, that a number of the abstracts proposed for the 2020 Vision conference addressed both these aspects. Community inside and outside Montgomery’s texts was interpreted specifically and generally, locally and globally, and applied to a range of books beyond the Anne series. Catherine Clark (Averett University), for example, proposed to compare Montgomery’s The Blythes Are Quoted and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and examine how both “aesthetically elevate the microcosms of intimate domestic life and community dynamics as a way of seeing and understanding broader human questions.” Trinna Frever (independent scholar) proposed to explore how the “newly penned (or unpenned) narrative visions” in the Emily trilogy, as well as similar elements in The Story Girl, The Golden Road, and Montgomery’s journals, “demonstrate that visions beget stories, and the right stories beget healing for individuals and communities, inside and outside Montgomery’s narrative world.”
Dr. Sellers selected the East Pointers's Facebook live feed, Annedemic, to exemplify a “socially constructed” community whereby viewers throughout the world discover synchroneity and a sense of belonging through Montgomery’s legacy. A panel on “Recognizing Oneself in a Book,” proposed by Swedish scholars Åsa Warnqvist (The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books), Malin Nauwerk (Uppsala University), and Tuva Haglund (Uppsala University), intended to “explore how readers, individually and collectively, have in Rita Felski’s (Uses of Fiction, 2008) terms ‘made use’ of Montgomery through the lens of recognition, vision, and revision and how they share this experience with others. The question of whether the ‘recognition’ of a kindred spirit outside of Montgomery’s fiction can have a similar formative effect in shaping the identities of readers is applicable to the readers of Montgomery historically and today with the 21st century’s rise of digital culture and online fandoms.”
In her video, Dr. Sellers makes the point that Anne’s imagined community becomes “a model for readers to envision their own such community in physical and imagined realms.” The LMMI achieves its mandate to promote “research into, and informed celebration of, the life, works, culture, and influence” of Montgomery by bringing together and celebrating various Montgomery communities, physical and virtual. Kate Scarth describes “projects and possibilities,” in addition to the biennial conferences and the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies, that further the Institute’s mandate. Current projects include (among others) the “Discover L.M. Montgomery’s PEI Map,” created by Heidi Haering; “The World of L.M. Montgomery and Her Fans/The Your LMM Story Project,” a project on origin stories being gathered by Dr. Scarth and Dr. Frever (see also the video “The World of L.M. Montgomery & Her Fans: Sharing Your LMM Story,” the blog “Keynote Speaker: Kate Scarth,” and the podcast “Kate Scarth and the L.M. Montgomery Institute”); “Database of L.M Montgomery’s Reading,” being (re)built by Emily Woster; "MaudCast: The Podcast of the L.M Montgomery Institute,” hosted by Brenton Dickieson; and @foundlmmontgomery on Instagram, created by Dr. Scarth and student assistant Alyssa Gillespie.
Much of the archival materials available for scholarly research, related to PEI generally and Montgomery specifically, in UPEI’s Robertson Library’s Special Collections is made possible through the Institute’s generous donors, to which Simon Lloyd pays tribute in a video posting, “Honouring Our Donors or ‘Since We Last Met.’”
In her description of “projects and possibilities,” Dr. Scarth ends by outlining future/possible projects and ways to get involved in the L.M. Montgomery Institute. One that was initiated for the 2020 conference and continues is the mentorship program. With a call for papers for the 2022 Re-vision conference coming out next week, you may want to consider becoming involved as either a mentor or mentee. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org (subject head LMMI Mentorship Program).
Communities come in different shapes and sizes. In her blog, “Amazing Grace: Aretha Franklin and Anne Shirley,” Evelyn White (Halifax journalist) discusses a live recording of “the sacred composition” with Franklin “as the star soloist at her father’s church in Detroit” in 1972 and “Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger swaying to the music while standing near the back of the sanctuary, sans paparazzi.” The community witnessing this event was small but attentive: “unlike the social media blitz that has become commonplace with today’s marquee cultural events, the Amazing Grace project was mainly a community affair that drew little press coverage.” Although the singer was never to travel to PEI to see the places where Montgomery’s characters came from, “her admiration for the free-spirited Anne Shirley will forever stand as an intriguing part of her legacy.”
Since the first LMMI biennial conference in 1994, many Montgomery readers have travelled to PEI to witness and participate in the growth and expansion of Montgomery’s legacy. In the epigraph to today’s posting, Yoshiko Akamatsu talks about how important attending this conference was for her and her disappointment when, in the spring, the 2020 conference was cancelled due to COVID-19. Her addendum resonates over half a year later: “Let’s look forward to meeting each other again in 2022. Until then, we can maintain and strengthen our bonds through the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies, Twitter, Facebook, and the L.M. Montgomery Institute blog. Our next [L.M. Montgomery international conference] will be even more precious having overcome the hardship of our experiences in 2020.”
Next Week: LMMI 2022 Conference: Re-vision
Reminder: We are accepting content for the Forum until 31 December 2020.
Banner image of PEI waves. Anne Victoria Photography, 2018.