Welcome back to Chawton House Library Conversations. First launched on Sunday 8 March 2015 in celebration of International Women’s Day, our monthly podcast is a round up of news, events and highlights, helping you stay connected with Chawton House Library wherever you are.
This month we discuss the extraordinary debut novel A Man of Genius with its author Janet Todd OBE, the internationally-renowned Cambridge scholar and Chawton House Library patron. She tells us that whilst the world of academia has been her career, novel writing has always been an ardent aspiration. We hear of her life in 60s America, teaching during a time which witnessed radical student movement and saw the authorities respond with tear gas and water canons. This certainly fit in with her interest in the radical tradition female in English literature! Her move back to England in the eighties, prompted by her love of the English literary ideal found in the Romantic Poets, demonstrated that the Americans were far ahead of us in appreciating Todd’s pioneering work in the feminist canon. Fortunately for her, (and Chawton House Library!) interest in female writers later heightened.
Todd then tells us how she finally made the move from writing non-fiction works to becoming a novelist, before whetting our appetite and discussing the development and narrative of A Man of Genius.
We then hear about the success of Regency Week, including a talk given at Chawton on Regency Fashion by Dr Kathrin Pieren, Curator of the Petersfield Museum. She explores how vastly fashion changed over this period, due to numerous factors and the influence Classical themes had on contemporary clothing, worn by the likes of Jane Austen. Pieren discusses the grand events of balls and how the light muslin dresses worn were actually more fashionable than the heavy silks and thus were affordable to the middle classes. Her discussion shows that clothing was a way of making one’s mark on history. If you have a particular interest in fashion at the time, be sure to visit the Petersfield Museum and stop by the Flora Twort gallery. See an 1800 racing silk used by the family of the Duke of Westminster.
As part of the week, the Hampshire Regency Dancers performed at the Library with members of the public joining in. Chairman Gordon Smith discusses the intricacies of the various dances and his pleasure in the Hampshire Regency Dancers’ close connection to Chawton.
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