Tuesday, August 04, 2015

E. M. Hull, Robin Hood and a conference on "Love and the Word"

A new article, about the mysterious/secretive E. M. Hull, author of The Sheik has sadly remained mysterious to me. However, the abstract of Ellen Turner's "E. M. Hull's Camping in the Sahara: desert romance meets desert reality" (published in Studies in Travel Writing) was available online and it points out that, not content with starting a Western craze for sexy fictional sheikhs, Hull also sought to position herself as an authority on non-fictional deserts and their inhabitants:
The publication of Camping in the Sahara, seven years after its author E. M. Hull was reluctantly catapulted to fame on the back of her ignominious debut novel, The Sheik (1919), made relatively little impact on her already cemented reputation as a bestselling author of desert “trash”. Nevertheless, her travelogue served to clarify her relative authority on the North African Saharan regions in which her novels were set. Hull's fictional output, abetted by Rudolph Valentino's screen performance in the novel's film adaptation, directed by George Melford (1921), served as a stimulus to the “sheik obsession” which was to capture the imagination of a generation during the 1920s. Even though Hull's name is forever wed to The Sheik, the woman herself remains something of an enigma. There is little critical or biographical information on Hull and her travels in Algeria. This article aims to piece together the available evidence. It also aims to begin to unravel the connection between Hull's fictional and non-fictional writing and to comment on its impact on the desert romance craze of the 1920s. Having examined how travel trends to the Sahara in the 1920s were informed by movements in popular culture, the essay proceeds to explore how Hull constructs the desert as a backdrop to her own story into which she writes herself. Hull's desert in Camping in the Sahara resembles a film set in which the scenery is imagined through a camera lens and the people she encounters are inadvertently assessed through the eyes of a casting director.
There aren't many romances which feature Robin Hood, but they do exist and maybe someone would like to write about them for the International Association for Robin Hood Studies (IARHS), which "is pleased to announce the creation of a new, peer-reviewed, open-access journal, The Bulletin of the International Association for Robin Hood Studies". More details here.

The Australasian Universities Languages & Literature Association Conference takes as its theme "Love and the Word" and will be held in Melbourne, Australia from 7th-9th December 2016:
The conference theme draws on AULLA’s origins as an association of scholars working in fields of philology. Thus we examine both philos (love) and logos (word). How does affection affect words? What do people mean by ‘love’ and its counterparts in the world’s languages? Or perhaps: how does it ‘do’ those meanings?
More details here. It sounds to me like the kind of conference which could benefit from romance scholarship such as Lisa Fletcher's, author of Historical Romance Fiction: Heterosexuality and Performativity (2008):
“I love you” is, for her, “the romantic speech act”: a performative utterance characteristic of the historical romance and revelatory of its function (25). “[R]omance is a fictional mode which depends on the force and familiarity of the speech act ‘I love you,’” she explains (7). To call something a “speech act,” in J.L. Austin’s terms, means that someone’s saying or writing it makes something happen: an event or condition is actually brought about by the utterance, rather than simply described by it. Statements that begin “I promise…,” “I bet…,” and “I apologize…” are all examples of speech acts. Rejecting the idea that “I love you” is simply a reliable report of its speaker’s emotional state, Fletcher focuses instead on what the sentence does—and, by extension, on what the genre defined by “I love you” also does, as though the entire genre were also a speech act, a performative utterance, in its own right. (from Pamela Regis's review of Fletcher's book).

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