Deidre Shauna Lynch became the first Connelly Lecturer in October 2004.
Note: the following information was current when Lynch visited Grinnell. An Associate Professor of English at Indiana University-Bloomington who has won multiple awards for teaching and for scholarship, Deidre Lynch won the Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book with The Economy Of Character: Novels, Market Culture, and the Business of Inner Meaning (1998). That book, which grounds the development of our modern notion of "character" in the newly commercialized social relations of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain, is one product of Lynch's ongoing effort to examine the communities of literature: the writers, readers, fans, and teachers who constitute the social worlds that form around the often solitary pursuit of reading. Claudia Johnson, who calls The Economy of Character "one of the most ambitious and important books about eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century fiction to appear in years," writes that after Lynch's work, "we will no longer be able to assume that the work of the novel is and has always been to represent interiority, and we will appreciate the enormous amount of cultural and nationalizing work that had to be done before British fiction could be generated in this way." When The Economy of Character describes the search for inner meanings of characters that allowed writers and readers to distinguish themselves from other participants in a mass market, the fictions of Jane Austen often provide the touchstone moments of the analysis. Janeites: Austen's Disciples and Devotees (2000), a collection Lynch edited, explores the reception of Austen's novels among many kinds of audiences with various conceptions of Austen and her fictions. Patricia Meyer Spacks has called Janeites"[a] remarkably compelling and important book. The brilliance of this collection depends partly on its conception: to demonstrate that at every historical moment since the initial publication of Jane Austen's novels there have been diverse audiences that attached diverse meanings to the texts provided. In a sense, Janeites offers a cautionary tale for critics, reminding us by dramatic exemplification of the degree to which assumptions held determine significance found, and reminding us also, on occasion, of where our assumptions come from." Lynch's current book project examines literary communities in another way. Tentatively titled "At Home in English: A Cultural History of the Love of Literature," the project investigates, in Lynch's words, "what it might mean to 'love'--rather than, for instance, to be instructed or moved by--literature." Combining the history of aesthetics with histories of psychology, sexuality, and the family, "At Home in English" will "reconstruct the redefinitions of literary experience--and, crucially, of the interior spaces of the mind and home--that had to occur for the love of literature to become a normal, everyday affair." During her visit to Grinnell, Lynch's first lecture, delivered to the campus community on October 28 at 8:00 p.m. in the Forum South Lounge, was titled "At Home with the Bibliomaniacs: Literary Canons and Library Cultures in the Age of George III." On October 30 at 11:00 in Main Lounge, Lynch spoke to English majors on "Saint Jane Austen." Details of the lectures' content follow.
At Home with the Bibliomaniacs: Literary Canons and Library Cultures in the Age of George III
This lecture engages the contradictory ways in which late eighteenth-century and early-nineteenth-century Britain thought about the rare book and thought about the well-heeled gentleman who (forming and pillaging libraries, risking huge sums in the "lottery of book-speculation") was more than happy to spend his life and his fortune hunting it down. This is the figure known in the satires of the period, as well in its true confessions and case histories, as the bibliomaniac. While literary study takes authors and works as its objects, the book-collector's cravings are for objects that are more particular; that desire for individual copies seems to deny the fact that books thrive on reproduction. Nonetheless, bibliomania plays a neglected role in the development of the conceptions of literature and literary study that are our legacy from Georgian Britain. The bibliomaniacs' acquisitiveness, and their possessive and perverse ways of responding to the new cultural arrangements promoting the love of literature, ca n provide us with a particularly vivid image of how literary culture, in an age that was beginning to see the canon as a source of social cohesion, managed the tensions between the ideals of a shared public heritage and the realities of private ownership. And their much publicized idiosyncrasies and eccentricities--their obsessive love, their habit of book-kissing--might help us to reframe the history of the notion of the literary heritage and see it as a chapter in the history of intimacy.
Saint Jane Austen
For more than a century, cultural commentators have been noticing, sometimes with vexation, that Jane Austen does not simply have admirers in the way other literary giants do; she also has fans, enthusiasts, even worshippers. In the history of Austen criticism it is in fact rare to find a critical study that does not begin by declaring that its aim is to rescue the novelist from that cult audience of "Janeites." This lecture on Austen, on the Janeites, and on Janeite rites of reverence aims to reveal the ways in which the "cult" in that term "cult audience" has not always been a dead metaphor. It will trace the sometimes rather curious ways in which Austen has been represented as a saint (the sharp wit of the novels notwithstanding). Thinking about Saint Jane will also help us think about the place that "canonized" women writers have been able to claim within the temple of high culture.