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July 10, 2003

Anne of the Undead

Just sent off a conference proposal to the next Lucy Maud Montgomery shindig in PEI next June called From the Virtual to the Real: The Construction of Landscape in Anne of Green Gables and Dracula. Sometimes you just have to tell things like they are. But the proposal is here for your delectation > It is not difficult to see L.M. Montgomery and Bram Stoker as contemporaries, writing Victorian fiction at the dawn of the 20th century. These two writers also share a common bond that is rarely matched by other writers in any period. What they wrote about was imaginative fiction that would become created in the real world long after they had written their works. Both authors constructed fictional topologies based on real places: Montgomery created Green Gables and the community of Avonlea, and Stoker created Dracula's Castle in Romania's Borgo Pass. Several recent critics (Janice Fiamengo, James De Jonge, Patsy Aspasia Kotsopoulos, et al.) have discussed the process that led to Montgomery's selective reproduction of late-19th-century Prince Edward Island landscape for her fiction. In a forthcoming book chapter about virtual spaces, Benjamin Lefebvre argues that this reinvented landscape becomes a sort of simulacrum (to use Baudrillard's term), free of temporal restraints and therefore suitable for national and international consumption; it is in this way, Lefebvre suggests, that Montgomery's imagined community has proven so easily malleable in adaptations by the Disney Corporation that international tourists have been known to find Sullivan's recreated Avonlea (in Uxbridge, Ontario) more ""authentic"" than the ""real"" geographic space of Prince Edward Island. This thinking also extends to Anne's World, constructed in Hokkaido, Japan in the late 1990s. Stoker's work has yet to receive this kind of scholarly inquiry, but this may change with the interest in the proposed Dracula Theme Park, recently slated for Sighisoara, Romania. Espen Aarseth notes in his discussion of the labyrinth that virtual space predates the development of computers and the Internet by centuries. Both Montgomery and Stoker's works have grown into worlds unto themselves that have expanded beyond the confines of the linear narrative text and that have morphed into labyrinthine worlds that are explored as much as read. And the exploration of these worlds has resulted in pressure from readers for the creation of physical spaces that they can experience firsthand. Despite drawing heavily from her personal experience, Montgomery's work is primarily one of her own imagination. As result of this imaginative text, however, governmental and tourist organizations have had to scramble to (re)create Green Gables and impose Montgomery's vision on already existing topographical features of the area. Stoker, on the other hand, drew from his own imagination and the gothic literary tradition, and worked from published accounts of Transylvannia, such as Emily Gerard's ""Transylvanian Superstitions"" (1885), in the creation of Dracula's castle in the Borgo Pass (Borgo Prund in Romanian), and the Golden Crone hotel at Bistritza (Bistrita). He went so far as to invent foods such as robber steak, all of which are ficticious constructions. The hotel now exists in downtown Bistrita, as does robber steak. And what was the dirt forest track through the Borgo Prund has been transformed over the past 25 years into a major highway leading up to the Castle Dracula Hotel. Furthermore, this forested area is now a blossoming community of farmers and cottagers, complete with church and nunnery. In both cases, the author's imagination has returned to haunt, cryptically as Derrida conceptualizes it, the landscapes what were in themselves the inspiration for the fiction. This paper will explore how these two authors' adapted existing landscapes into imaginary fictional constructs, and how the popularity of these fictions, in turn, resulted in real places being transformed to conform with the fiction. References Aarseth, Espen. (1997) Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore: John Hopkins. Baudrillard, Jean (1988) ""Simulacra and Simulations."" In Selected Writings. Mark Poster, ed. Stanford: Stanford. Pp. 166-184. Castricano, Jodey (2001) Cryptomimesis: The Gothic and Jacques Derrida's Ghost Writing. Montreal: McGill De Jonge, James (2002 )""Through the Eyes of Memory: L.M. Montgomery's Cavendish."" Making Avonlea: L.M. Montgomery and Popular Culture. Ed. Irene Gammel. Toronto: U of Toronto P. Pp. 252-67. Fiamengo, Janice (2002) ""Toward a Theory of the Popular Landscape in Anne of Green Gables."" Making Avonlea: L.M. Montgomery and Popular Culture. Ed. Irene Gammel. Toronto: U of Toronto P. Pp. 225-37. Foucault, Michel. (1980) ""Questions on Geography."" In Power/Knowledge. Colin Gordon, ed. New York: Pantheon. Pp. 63-77 Gerard, Emily. (1885) ""Transylvanian Superstitions"" Kotsopoulos, Patsy Aspasia (2002) ""Avonlea as Main Street USA? Genre, Adaptation, and the Making of a Borderless Romance."" Essays on Canadian Writing 76:170-94. Lefebvre, Benjamin. (Forthcoming) ""Virtual Avonlea."" In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Joel Weiss, Jason Nolan, Peter Trifonas eds. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Montgomery, Lucy Maud (1992) Anne of Green Gables . Toronto: McClelland. Orig. Boston: Page, 1908. Miller, Elizabeth (2000) Dracula: Sense and Nonsense. Wescliff-on-sea: Desert Island Books. Nolan, J., Lawrence, J. & Kajihara, Y. (1999). úMontgomeryˆs Island in the Net: Metaphor and Community on the Kindred Spirits E-mail List."" Canadian Children's Literature. 91, 24:3-4. Nolan, J. (2002). úText as Horror: Cryptomimesis: The Gothic and Jacques Derridaˆs Ghost Writing.î Journal of Dracula Studies. No. 4. Rubio, Mary, and Elizabeth Waterston. (1985) The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Volume I: 1889-1910 . Toronto: Oxford. Rubio, Mary, and Elizabeth Waterston. (1987) The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Volume II: 1910-1921 . Toronto: Oxford. Stoker, Bram. (1998) Dracula Unearthed. Annotated and Edited by Clive Leatherdale. Wescliff-on-sea: Desert Island Books. Zizek, Slavoj (1997) The Plauge of Fantasies. London: Verso."

Posted by jason at July 10, 2003 08:09 AM