The Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies is thrilled to announce the appointment of our new editorial assistant, Alyssa Gillespie. Alyssa is an Anthropology student at UPEI. She has presented a comparative analysis of Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon and Anne of Green Gables at the Annual Atlantic English Undergraduate Conference in February of 2018 hosted by St. Thomas University.
1. How did you first encounter L.M. Montgomery?
Alyssa: Being from PEI, I cannot pin down the exact moment I came to encounter Montgomery; her presence and Island culture are so entwined I feel as though I have always known her. However,
I avoided reading Montgomery as I blamed her for creating Anne thus forcing me to share my summers with tourists. Eventually I came to the realization that there was a reason people came to experience the Island through Montgomery and decided to read the Emily trilogy (my resentment drew the line at reading Anne). While I enjoyed the series, I did not pick up another Montgomery text until 2018 when I took a course focused on Montgomery as a summer elective. I read six novels for that course, including Anne of Green Gables, and I learned about Montgomery as a person as well as an author. That was the turning point for me and I have Deidre Kessler, a member of the journal’s editorial board, to thank for enriching my life and reintroducing me to the pillar of Island culture that is L.M. Montgomery.
2. What most appeals to you about L.M. Montgomery?
Alyssa: Montgomery has a way of captivating readers and suspending the passage of time. She can stretch a single event over a series of pages, so, for example, because of the intrigue she carefully develops, the reader doesn’t realize that Aunt Becky’s levee has been happening for a full 65 pages. Of course, the fact that her characters are splendidly developed and authentically human doesn’t hurt either. Also, as an Islander, I cannot ignore the genuine Island essence she preserves in her novels. I find it difficult to not feel at home when I read works such as Jane of Lantern Hill or A Tangled Web.
3. We’re excited to have a journal editorial assistant who has already presented at an academic conference on L.M. Montgomery. What’s your research on Montgomery all about?
Alyssa: The paper I presented was exploring the ways in which Emily Starr could be understood as the anti-Anne Shirley based on the idea that Anne represented a childhood Montgomery wished she had, while Emily demonstrated an experience closer to the author’s reality. However, I have many interests in terms of research on Montgomery, such as: her usage of second sight and how she plays with the concept of love-at-first-sight, as well as the impact and consequences of duty. I think one of the wonderful things about Montgomery’s works is how her novels can be understood through a multitude of lenses, making the realm of research opportunities seemingly infinite.
4. What aspect of L.M. Montgomery, her work, and/or legacy do you think is most underrated?
Alyssa: I think Montgomery’s adult fictions are underrated and do not get the love they deserve. Specifically underrated is A Tangled Web. There is a wealth of wonders in that book that always seems to be overlooked. The Great Depression really overshadowed the publication of A Tangled Web but I strongly encourage people to give it a chance!
5. What have you learned about the journal so far that you think everyone should know about?
Alyssa: This journal is like a one-stop Montgomery shop; it is going to be the hub of all things Montgomery! From peer-reviewed papers to creative works, the journal is open to all forms of media and a variety of submissions; all of which not only makes this a great resource for Montgomery scholars but also for fans in general. The journal is an excellent way to watch the evolving understanding of Montgomery’s works and to see how people continue to build on her legacy.
6. What excites you about working on the journal?
Alyssa: I am excited to be working with people who care about Montgomery! I think it will be a wonderful experience for me and allow me to see Montgomery through the eyes of people who have been with her longer than I have. There are so many ways to interpret Montgomery as well as pay tribute to her and working closely with the journal will allow me to strengthen my connection to her and learn more through the ways others celebrate her life and talent.
Alyssa had a lot to say about Montgomery! Keep reading to find out more...
7. Who do you think is the strangest/weirdest/scariest person in Montgomery’s canon?
Alyssa: Immediately, Dean Priest pops into my head. I think he is the perfect culmination of strange, weird, and scary. While I appreciated Montgomery’s tryst outside of her usual love interest archetype (Gilbert Blythe, Teddy Kent), Dean was not my cup of tea, to say the least. Rereading the Emily series as an adult, I was thrown for a loop and could not believe how quickly I overlooked that relationship as a child! Truly Dean’s entire plot was a bit nauseating, but I admire the lengths Emily went to to get the house of her dreams.
8. Who's the worst (character)?
Alyssa: Nan Penhallow! I am a sucker for drama and a bit of family rivalry but Nan was almost insufferable. I struggled to sympathize or feel happiness for her. She was mean spirited and she gave modernism a bad name.
9. Who is the best side-kick/kindred spirit?
Alyssa: I am utterly torn. Diana Berry is an obvious first choice: she has been the poster child for kindred spirits since the publication of Anne. However, I have a strong attachment to Ilse Burnley. Ilse is opposite of Diana in just about every way but there is something about the fiery spirit of Ilse that speaks to me. Due to my affinity for the Emily series, Ilse is my favourite despite her occasional short-comings in terms of friendship. Ilse complements Emily in a beautiful way and I admire their ability to communicate their frustrations and sort through their strife.
Acknowledgement: Banner image derived from Book cover of A Tangled Web. 1931. Kindred Spaces. 157 TW-MSC 1931 version. Web. October 16, 2019.