Dead Writers Society – Social Media and Posthumous Author Identity

Header Image By  Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Not to brag but I’m being followed by John Polidori, you know the guy that made vampires into an aristocratic phenomenon in the English gothic canon with his novella The Vampyre. It’s a pretty amazing feat as he’s been dead for nearly 200 years. Yes, there is someone out there using the account @johnwpolidori on Twitter to Tweet and Retweet online content pertaining to John Polidori and his associates. Doctor Polidori is one of the most tragic figures of the Romantic movement; perpetually living in the shadow of Lord Byron, eternally striving to create something that would capture the public imagination and eventually cut his own life short after a steep downward spiral.

It makes me incredibly happy that there is at least someone out there ensuring that his name is unforgotten in this age of social media. But if an author like Polidori is still represented what about the original celebrity, Lord George Gordon Byron?

The representation of Lord Byron on Twitter is more complex. Some of those who got in early and grabbed Byronic usernames are using them to promote their own poetry, as unrelated personal accounts, abandoned literary accounts and one successful racehorse. It seems that Byron and his identity have outgrown it literary legacy in a way that Polidori has not. The active Lord George Gordon Byron centric accounts are run by Byron Societies and Newstead Abbey, his former home. There is also one account actively sharing Byron related content that does not seem to have any commercial, personal or academic affiliation, @lordbyron_1824, this would be the closest to the previously mentioned Polidori account.

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All images are in the public domain

But that’s Byron, what about the less celebrated in their time authors, those that are more appreciated now than in their day. Jane Austen for example. Female authors who were not identified by their portraits in their time like their male counterparts are now recognizable (Braun and Spiers, 2016). The female authors are now seen in this new age of social media that allows for the effortless reproduction of images.  Jane Austen has numerous accounts that claim affiliation, or just post quotes daily. These accounts might I add, are more popular than those of Byron.

So why do people still care about these authors, and why are there social media accounts dedicated to continuing their memorialization into an age of social media? Braun and Spiers (2016) talk about posthumous literary celebrity as being about so much more than the body of the artists work, but also of the image that they represent. Byron was a rebel, the first real celebrity, people paid for telescopes to watch him on holiday on Lake Geneva, women sent him their pubic hair and scandal followed him everywhere he went. But as far as an enduring literary legacy goes… well not many people have read his work compared with other less scandalous authors of his time. This is what makes him a character to emulate on social media, not because people are still reading Childe Harold.

Boeuf and Darveau (2017) talk about the power of association with a deceased celebrity; not only are audiences more receptive to messages ‘from’ dead celebrities, but that receptiveness can be leveraged for commercial gain. This might mean that any message purporting to be affiliated with a deceased literary figure with a substantial and continuing social legacy is given greater weight and will inevitably garner more interest than posts from a poet named Geoff from somewhere in Washington. These literary identities give the account a weight that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Users continue to engage with bots that simply spew out quotes from the pages of the greatest literature in the world into the ether, hoping for a knowing interaction.

 

References

  • Boeuf, B. and Darveau, J., 2017. Posting from beyond the grave: An autopsy of consumer attitudes toward promotional communication in a posthumous context. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 34(4), pp.892-900.
  • Braun, R. and Spiers, E., 2016. Introduction: re-viewing literary celebrity. Celebrity studies, 7(4), pp.449-456.
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The Devil’s Dictionary

Today we are going to dabble in The Devil’s Dictionary. 

Our Twitter is @thefrankenpod

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20180731_220458_0001-1598354645.pngThe first English dictionary is commonly thought to be compiled in 1755 by Dr Samuel Johnson of Blackadder fame. But that’s not really true. There were plenty of dictionaries before him. The most accurate guess at the earliest English language dictionary was one written by Robert Cawdrey in 1604 which was the first to include definitions albeit of only 2 thousand four hundred and 99 words. Put in contrast the Oxford English dictionary today has over 170 thousand words. The key difference between Dr Johnson’s dictionaries and the ones who came before him was the number of definitions and the level organisation.

Johnson dedicated his life to lexicography and died in 1784. 83 years later Ambrose Bierce, a writer of excellent gothic and supernatural short stories embarked on the serialised satirical exploration of the dictionary. Some of these definitions popped up in his weekly columns in ‘Town Crier’ and ‘Prattle’ and also in his personal letters. He wasn’t the first to take on the idea of a satirical dictionary, but Bierce certainly was dedicated to building and collating his own glossary of irreverent definitions.

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was born June 24th 1842, in an Ohio settlement called Horsecave. One of 13, all beginning with the letter A. Marcus Aurelius Bierce (1799–1876) and Laura Sherwood Bierce Had 13 kids named Abigail, Amelia, Ann, Addison, Aurelius, Augustus, Almeda, Andrew, Albert, and Ambrose… and that’s how you make sure one of your kids is going to write some kind of dictionary. It just so happened that this particular kid was a bit of a smart arse as he grew up.

As a kid, he was a printer’s devil, which is a little guy who mixes ink and generally getting things to the printer as quickly as possible because of those printing presses and typesetting dealies technical term, are massive and complex. He was 15 at this point and the printing operation he worked at was for an abolitionist paper called the Northern Indian

I’m terrified of delving into military history as always so here are the bare bones facts that we need from Bierce’s military service:

He fought in the Union army from the age of 18 until 24

He sustained a pretty serious head injury and some serious psychological damage

He saw some shit and it definitely had an impact on his writing. The horror of war was something he would come back to multiple times during his time as a writer.

He got married and had 3 kids. The marriage came to an end when he discovered letters to his wife Molly from an admirer, the separated in 1888, but did not divorce until 1904, 16 years later. She died the next year. His 3 kids were 2 boys, Day and Leigh and a daughter named Helen. Day and Leigh both died as young men, Day duel a romantic rejection and Leigh’s alcoholism and a nasty bout of pneumonia got the better of him in 1901. So by 1905 it Helen was Ambrose’s only surviving child.

Ambrose is typically framed as a Soldier, Journalist, writer and hardened cynic.

We will be revisiting Bierce’s amazing short stories at some point and there is an earlier episode of the Frankenpod which is just me reading A Vine on a House which is one of Bierce’s shorter stories. He is one of the wittiest, creepy and concise writers of American gothic fiction. He had a misadventure in Mining getting involved as a manager without experience and at the end of the mining boom so that didn’t go well.

Bierce at the age of 71 went to Mexico while it was in the middle of a revolution. He joined one of the armies as an observer, the army of Pancho Villa. The last known correspondence was from Chihuahua in Mexico and then poof! He vanished!

And that, in very broad strokes is the life of Ambrose Bierce, and if anyone knows a lot more about Mr Bierce and would like to come on the podcast I’d love to talk to you!

Three things you need to know about The Devil’s Dictionary

  1. It is intensely self-indulgent
  2. It is quite misogynist
  3. It is incredibly racist.

Particularly when it comes to Native Americans and Aboriginal people.

Thanks to the U.S. Army Jazz by for making the song Kelli’s no. available in the public domain.

Promo from Not another X Files Podcast

 

#romanticism – Romanticism and Social Media

John Keats was a brilliant poet and a darling of the Romantic age and whilst his legacy has been somewhat eclipsed by the formidable shadow of Lord Byron, many snippets from his works have slipped into common usage. For example “A thing of beauty is a joy forever’, that was his, it’s from a poem called Endymion. I’m not sure how many people are aware of its origin, I certainly wasn’t until I stumbled across the poem in a collection in my high school library.

 

Today I follow The Keats Letters Project, The Keats Shelley Society and The Keats Foundation on Twitter and daily, depending on the congestion of my feed, I often get a random daily dose of Keats.

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Image: Kate Ter Haar CC BY 2.0

In this post, I’m going to focus on the works of the Romantics and the place they have posthumously found within social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The titular ‘#romanticism’ will immediately bring up results for an ocean of tweets of the work of the great romantic painters, including the works of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (pictured) generally tweeted by accounts that identify as the artist’s name such as John Everitt Millais @artistmillais.

 

Rebellious and subversive poets such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge & Percy Bysshe Shelley never lived to see their writing form become old hat. There was no possibility that they could comprehend moving from romanticism to modernism, modernism to postmodernism and so on. The likes of Shelley, Byron and Keats have drifted in and out of favour and in this age of social media we might expect that these tired authors might be firmly relegated to history. But then came social media and literature nerds like myself and countless others are consistently brushing off the metaphorical dusty pages, canvasses and plates to not only digitise but memorialise and adapt pieces of the Romantic movement. Below is one of my tweets using the #romaniticism hashtag to share an edited image from a literary annual featuring works of Romanticism for young ladies to promote my podcast that talks about a work of Romanticism by Mary Shelley, one of the great authors of the Romantic movement. And that my friend is convergence.

Vast quantities of books from the Romantic period have been digitised by libraries and archives, they have been transcribed by volunteers at Project Gutenberg and read by volunteers at Librivox. That information or the books they are derived from is then used by others to write blogs, record Youtube videos, make podcasts and create those very pretty and ambiguous inspirational quotes.

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Now it’s your turn… by Michael Coghlan by CC by 2.0

All or most of these creations are shared on social media. But none of this happens without the human desire to make mediums collide and take their experience of a text into a different realm. These sharable, likeable and Tweetable formats that we squeeze these often weighty, sometimes iconic texts and images may have the effect of diminishing the work, but it can also have the effect of adding to rather than subtracting from the narrative of the artefact; that is it can make a static piece of art into something that living, morphing and consistently reimagined. Ross & Sayers (2014) highlight the way that modernist texts can become alive through social media and other internet-mediated discourse and a similar argument could be applied to the preceding Romantic movement.

 

As Wright suggests in ‘Battle of the Books’ (2009) this new digitisation of literature means that ‘the book is becoming a fluid entity that can flow into a number of vessels’ and the same is true of poetry and art. The appeal of these particular works of the Romantic period is surely due in no small measure to their status in the public domain, leaving these iconic works that helped pave the way for western cultural heritage as we know it freely available for anyone to read, dissect and reimagine.

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Ebook by Daniel Sancho by CC by 2.0

As Wright suggests in ‘Battle of the Books’ (2009) this new digitisation of literature means that ‘the book is becoming a fluid entity that can flow into a number of vessels’ and the same is true of poetry and art. The appeal of these particular works of the Romantic period is surely due in no small measure to their status in the public domain, leaving these iconic works that helped pave the way for western cultural heritage as we know it freely available for anyone to read, dissect and reimagine.

Listen to a quick podcast on Romantic Gothic literature, impermanence and Percy Bysshe Shelley

References

Images

  • “Portrait of John Keats” by Joseph Severn, 1821, Retrieved from the National Portrait Gallery.
  • “Laptop” by Bonzo, Open Clip Art under CC BY 1.0.
  • “Joan of Arc” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1882, Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.
  • “Now it’s your turn…” by Michael Coghlan under CC BY 2.0, Flickr.
  • “Beauty is truth, truth beauty; that is all ye know on earth and all ye need know. – John Keats” by Kate Ter Haar is licensed under CC BY 2.0,
  • “ebook” by Daniel Sancho is licensed under CC BY 2.0
  • The “Ozymandias Collossus”, Ramesseum, Luxor, Egypt by Charlie Phillips is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Music

  • Evermore by Kai Engel is licensed under an Attribution License 3.0 License.
  • Kelli’s Number by U.S. Army Blues is licensed under a Public Domain 1.0 License.

The Keepsake, Mary Shelley and Eboli

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In this episode of The FrankenPod, we talk a little bit about one of Mary Shelley’s works written for the literary annual The Keepsake. We already covered the ‘Mortal Immortal’ and Shelley published 7 or 8 stories in The Keepsake.

The 1828 edition of The Keepsake

The Keepsake was produced with a particular audience in mind, the relatively new reading demographic or young women. The increased literacy of women in the 19th century, despite the fact that their wandering wombs might be affected by scandalous novels and stories.

But basically, it was still considered relatively dangerous to be exposing women to literature, particularly literature that was scandalous, scary or not completely pious and religious.

Basically historically society has had a pretty dim view of educating women and allowing them to read. Because god knows what they might do if they gained an alternate world view from the ones prescribed by their husbands, fathers and brothers.

Back to keepsake. Because it was aimed at young women it was bound in red dress silk and had lots of pictures.

It was published between 1828, so 10 years after Frankenstein, until 1857, so 10 years after Sweeney Todd on The FrankenPod timeline

The publication was founded by Charles Heath who was actually an engraver, so those amazing pictures?

 

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It took some work but he was able to get Hurst, Chance, & Co to publish the first volume in 1828. It was edited by William Ainsworth who created Dick Turpin the highwayman and very unhelpfully does not list the authors of the stories and poems. We do know that one of the contributions was made by Percy Shelley, William Ainsworth and Felicia Heman who wrote the poem ‘Casablanca’ which starts

The boy stood on the burning deck,

Whence all but he had fled;

The flame that lit the battle’s wreck,

Shone round him o’er the dead.

Which is this gut punch of a poem about a kid who dies on a burning ship, but that I encountered as a child by my eternally classy father teaching me this version:

The boy stood on the burning deck

Picking his nose like mad,

Rolling it into little balls

And throwing them at his dad.

Anyway there a good 10 or twenty stories and poems in the 1828 The Keepsake that don’t have clear authorship which is a shame. The engravings, however, are all attributed, mostly to Charles Heath.

The Percy Shelley contribution was published posthumously presumably by Mary Shelley, he had drowned 6 years previously.

We do have the authors for the second edition in 1829.

They included Sir Walter Scott, Coleridge who wrote my favourite piece of Albatross inspired literature this is the last bit from Part 1 of ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus!—

Why look’st thou so?’—With my cross-bow

I shot the ALBATROSS.

But he hadn’t written that yet, that was 5 years away.

Other attributed authors included Felicia Hemon (Listed as Mrs Hemon) Wordsworth, Southey, so some pretty big names.

The 1829 edition also brings us the first 2 contributions by Mary Shelley – Ferdinando Eboli (pronunciation?) and The Sisters of Albano

There is much more information on Ferdinando Eboli.

It follows the story of Count Ferdinando Eboli who is saying farewell to his loved ones before leaving for the Napoleonic Wars.

At this point, I should probably tell you that the publication The Keepsake was said to showcase second-rate fiction from first-rate authors…

Reviews can be nasty.

Richard March’s The Beetle with Olivia from What’sHerName Podcast

This blog post accompanies The FrankenPod episode Unpleasant Odours released on Saturday the 14th of July 2018.

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I was lucky enough to be joined by Olivia of the women’s history podcast What’sHerName which draws attention to stories of women who get consistently overlooked. Olivia teaches women’s studies and also has a website on travelling with small children called Around the World in 80 Diapers,

We discussed the often overlooked novel by Richard Marsh, The Beetle. The Beetle was published in 1897, the same year as Dracula and outsold it six times over. Bram Stoker’s Dracula would go on to be adapted, studied and re-imagined throughout the 20th century, whereas The Beetle has been almost lost, like all but a few of Richard Marsh’s 80 pieces of fiction.

The Beetle explores colonialism, politics, religion, gender, race and human exceptionalism. At its core, it is a deeply visceral gothic horror that defies many conventions of Victorian and gothic literature.

The story is told in 4 testimonies, one from Robert Holt a man used as a slave of a character called the Arab who is bent on destroying the life of a quite gifted and liberal politician called Paul Lessingham, the second testimony is from a rival of Paul Lessingham, who is also vying for the affections of his soon to be fiance, Majorie Lindon, the third testimony is from Majori Lindon herself and the final is from a detective called Augustus Champnell who is pulling the whole mystery together.

For more listen to The FrankenPod

*Insert Bad Haircut Joke Here* The String of Pearls (1846) and Sweeney Todd (2007)

This week we looked at the story of Sweeney Todd as he moves from the monstrous, immoral demon of Fleet Street to tragic serial killer hellbent on revenge.

We don’t like Sweeney Todd in any of his incarnations, but it is a damn good story.

Brent watched the 2007 Tim Burton Movie and the 1979 stage show

I read the novel version of the 1846-1847 serialised Penny Dreadful titled The String of Pearls or Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (authorship contested).

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The story is not the sad tale of the tragic and violent figure of Sweeny Todd. It begins really with the story of Lieutenant Thornhill who is bringing the Titular string of pearls to the fiance of shipmate he believes to be dead. His mission to deliver the pearls entrusted to him by Mark Ingestrie to his sweetheart Joanna Oakley is rudely interrupted when he decides to go for a shave as soon as he arrives in London and has the misfortune to choose Sweeny Todd as his barber. Something happens, we don’t quite know what and Thornhill is gone. Thornhill, however, did not arrive in England alone and his faithful dog remains to wait at the barber’s door bitterly mourning his owner. This does not go unnoticed. And one of the more unfortunate souls who are at the heart of this mystery is a little guy called Tobias. He is a young boy who Todd has taken on as his apprentice. Todd beats the boy when he gets out of line or questions the increasing number of men disappearing from the shop to the point at which Tobias ends up a shivering crying wreck in the corner. When Tobias goes to inform authorities Todd has him sent to an asylum, where it is implied that he is not the first of todd’s apprentices to enter the facility if we can even call it that. A large portion of the narrative is devoted to heavily implying, in fact, they come out and say explicitly at one point that they aren’t so much treating or confining people as actively killing them off.

Meanwhile, Thornhill’s disappearance is noticed by his friends Colonel Jeffrey, who not only begins to investigate the disappearance, he also takes it upon himself to get the message of her sweetheart Mark Ingestrie’s death to Joanna Oakley. Joanna is upset obviously but doesn’t believe that Mark Ingetsrie is actually dead because Colonel Jeffery had never met him and was just conferring the information from Thornhill. Joanna begins to believe that the missing Thornhill is actually Jeffery in disguise. She also begins to investigate his disappearance. Her mother is also a religious zealot who is in the thrall of this cultish reverend who believes that he is the chosen one and Joanna is his chosen bride, which ends up resulting in her father and his beefeater cousin turning the reverend out of the house. Her mother then poisons her father and the cousin, survivable poisoning, but there is a bunch of full-blown misogyny in here as well like the cousin telling the story of how he will never marry because even women who seem sweet and supplicant to the whims of men have their own self-determination (that is not his words, he are grosser). At some stage, Joanna decides that her best course of action to dress as a boy and enter into an apprenticeship with Todd, who is, as luck would have it in need of a new apprentice because the last one went mad don’t cha know.

For more listen to The FrankenPod

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Once upon a time, there was a guy named Brent who trusted Morgan to tell him a story with a beginning, middle and end…

This is the blog post that accompanies The FrankenPod episode Drood! released on the 7th of July 2018. Click here to add us into your podcast app!

This episode we talk about the last story written by Charles Dickens, the characters, the story, the adaptations…

Brent gets a little emotional.

Stay past the outro music for some extra bits including Brent getting excited about theatre stuff and a promo for 6 Degrees of Wiki

The bleak, cold and unfeeling city of London and it’s sometimes monstrous inhabitants, corrupt power structures and labyrinthine streets and alleyways place the work of Dicken’s squarely within Victorian Gothic and The Mystery of Edwin Drood is no exception.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is the story of the disappearance and potential murder of the titular Edwin Drood who had recently quarrelled with a guy named Neville, broke off an engagement with Rosa and has the misfortune to be a relation to a very unsavoury character named John Jasper. Rosa and Edwin seem to have ended their betrothal by their fathers on friendly terms and it is possible that Drood and Neville Landless managed to patch things up before his disappearance, which just kind of leaves Jasper.

But is Drood really dead and what is the deal with that weird guy Dick Datchery who just turned up out of the blue?

Listen HERE

Once you finish the episode here are the videos Brent promised you:

Promo for the Broadway Show:

 

Super Abridged Musical

The Characters speak: