Island Lecture Series – May 2018: “Anne of Charlottetown and Summerside: L.M. Montgomery’s Urban PEI” with Kate Scarth

Anne of Charlottetown and Summerside: L.M. Montgomery’s Urban PEI
with Dr. Kate Scarth
Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | 7 p.m. | SDU Main Building Faculty Lounge

The May 2018 Island Studies Lecture took place on Tuesday, May 15, at 7 p.m. in the SDU Main Building Faculty Lounge on the UPEI campus and featured L.M. Montgomery scholar Dr. Kate Scarth speaking about “Anne of Charlottetown and Summerside: L.M. Montgomery’s Urban PEI.”

This presentation followed Anne of Green Gables to urban PEI: to Charlottetown and Summerside. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne goes to Queen’s College—a fictional version of Prince of Wales College—and in Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne is the principal of Summerside High School. Of course, Anne of Green Gables and its author L.M. Montgomery usually conjure up images of rural Avonlea and Cavendish, the beaches and farms of PEI’s north shore. Montgomery’s rural island is reflected in her own writings, and later film and TV adaptations from Kevin Sullivan’s 1980s miniseries starring Megan Follows to CBC/Netflix’s recent Anne with an E, and the many tourist sites like Green Gables that celebrate the author. While the rural looms large in her life and work, Montgomery was also a chronicler of urban Canada. She wrote journals and letters about her life in Charlottetown, Prince Albert, Halifax, and Toronto, while three novels, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, and Jane of Lantern Hill, have significant urban settings.

In the early twentieth century, when Montgomery was writing, Canadian cities and their suburbs were growing and offered amenities and possibilities—electric lights, fashionable shops, ice cream parlours, secondary and post-secondary education—not available in the countryside. Montgomery’s towns include these urban offerings and as harbourside island towns, Charlottetown and Summerside are particularly linked to the wider, modern world; the ferry, for example, that brings Anne to the island for the first time, comes and goes from the provincial capital. At the same time, Charlottetown and Summerside are at their best in the Anne books when they showcase PEI nature and rural life. Avonlea permeates Charlottetown: the capital’s exhibition showcases Avonlea goods and talents and the city’s newspapers describe Avonlea residents’ accomplishments. Anne continually seeks out the towns’ parks, graveyards, and the sea, reflecting a wider late-nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century movement towards public green spaces and suburbanization. This presentation then asks: how does one of the most insightful writers of PEI and Canada’s literary landscapes grapple with the tensions between modernizing, globally linked, and growing towns and a traditional rural, agriculturally based island? The presentation also offers an urban dimension to a writer usually steeped in rural tradition, but who was writing about a Canada starting to become the urban nation it is today.

Dr. Kate Scarth is the Chair of L.M. Montgomery Studies and Applied Communication, Leadership, and Culture (ACLC) at UPEI.  Her research focuses on English and Canadian literature written from the eighteenth to the early twentieth century and she is particularly interested in fiction about urbanism and the environment. Her book, Romantic Suburbs: Sensibility, Ecology, and Greater London, is under contract with the University of Toronto Press. She is also leading a digital humanities, public engagement project about literary Halifax, Nova Scotia.



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