Tuesday 15 May 2018

The Secret Victorianist in 2018

It’s been a quiet few months on the Secret Victorianist blog, but a busy few months for the Secret Victorianist. Not only do I have an exciting new project in the works (more on that to come) but, as usual, I’ve been living my best nineteenth-century life, all while navigating a twenty-first century existence in New York.

Below is a snapshot of what I’ve been up to:
I watched…

The Eifman Ballet
Anna Karenina in ballet form:
This April the Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg returned to New York with this moving dance adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic novel. The cast is pared back and the story simplified to put Anna’s love life at its centre, and the choreography mixes the classical with the more avant-garde. Anna and Vronsky writhe on separate beds, struggling with their feelings for each other, a toy train circles our protagonist who appears trapped in a giant snow globe, the power and momentum of the lethal train is conveyed by the rhythmic motions of the chorus. The production manages to capture the emotional heart of the novel in a way that transcends cultures, decades and language.

To Walk Invisible (2016):
This BBC TV dramatization covering the years 1845-1848 in the lives of the Bronte siblings, directed by Sally Wainwright, is a treat for academics and fans of the literary family. Much of the script builds on the words of the Brontes and their associates, taken from letters and other written records. Not only is it meticulously researched, but this costume drama comes with grit and a heavy dose of reality. Characters wear the same dress (shock!) more than once, the three female co-leads appear not to be wearing makeup, Branwell’s alcoholism rings true. Shot on location in Haworth, it’s a delight for enthusiasts and a great introduction to the Bronte myth for the uninitiated. If teachers aren’t showing it in schools, they should be.

Film poster for Lady Macbeth (2016)

Lady Macbeth (2016):
This movie adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District is beautifully shot and deliciously dark. The story now unfolds in rural England, where Katherine Lester (played by Florence Pugh) rages against the confines of her loveless marriage and unfulfilling life with ultimately murderous consequences.

I visited…

View towards the Bronte Parsonage Museum
Haworth—home of the Brontes:
After years of reading about the Bronte household and seeing it on film, I finally visited Yorkshire and spent two nights in Haworth, just round the corner from the parsonage itself. I was struck by how small the house felt when you consider how the family lived there as adults, the sheer number of nineteenth-century graves in the graveyard surrounding the house (testament to the poor sanitation and appalling conditions faced by many of the Brontes’ contemporaries) and by how unspoiled the surrounding landscape remains to this day. Enjoying unseasonably fine weather, I hiked across the moors and soaked in what felt like a spiritual homecoming.

I’m reading…

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton (2013):
This Man Booker winning novel is set in New Zealand in 1866 at the height of the country’s booming gold rush. It’s a mammoth achievement, dealing with an intricate mystery. Full review to follow.

So that’s it, folks. I’m back to regularly scheduled programming, so let me know what you would like to see the Secret Victorianist—below, on Facebook or by tweeting @SVictorianist.

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