We are two part-time academics. Ellen teaches in the English department and Jim in the IT program at George Mason University.

_North and South_ & _Clary_ (& _Vanity Fair_ too) · 19 February 08

Dear Marianne,

I thought I might add to my resolution at least to cite the good books I read straight through and enjoy, great mini-series I see on DVDs, not all of which I have the time or am prepared to rewatch to the point I can write about, or know enough about the book or screenplay writer & director/producer.

Three very recently:

1) 1991 BBC/WBGH Clarissa: David Nokes & Janet Barron, the writers; Robert Bierman, the director; Kevin Loader, the producer
2) 1999 BBC/WBGH Vanity Fair: Andrew Davies, the writer; Marc Munden, the director; Gillian MacNeil, the producer
3) 2004 BBC North and South: Sandy Welch, the writer; Brian Percival, the director; Kate Bartlett, the producer.

All three are extraordinary films, so vividly pictorial and theatrical, with effective dramatized characters or presences of real gravitas, had serious adult themes treated intelligently and with depth; the means by which this was achieved were as complex, rich, and as filled with life for close reading as any book.

I hope to to write on the blog about Clarissa eventually. I’ve proposed another year-long group reading and discussion of Clarissa on my small Eighteenth Century Worlds list so electrified have I been by this effective movie. When Clary made her good death, I cried with relief for her. But I must read more criticism too: I’m aware that for the 1972 Emma, the director and writer actually read and had in mind major critical essays on Emma from the 1960s; I’d be very much surprized if Nokes hadn’t read Terry Eagleton’s The Rape of Clarissa, and I’ve yet to read it. I haven’t got words strong enough to express the power of this film and am persuaded it’s done with real integrity and is about modern sexuality and power in human relationships, about the hows & whys of male violence to women (and men to one another), the interplay of longing for luxury (money). It’s rivetting, compelling, everything a film could be that is not more episodes (it’s one short).

For North and South I can only make a prelimary blog. I need to listen to my tape of the book again, read more about and by Gaskell (especially Patsy Stoneman)—and it would be well first to watch all four parts too!

As for Vanity Fair well soon I will be listening to a reading of Henry Esmond so at least re-familiarize myself with Thackeray before thinking of anything else and I should mention it as an unusual dark ironic/satiric carnvalesque masterpiece.

On two of the lists I’m on devoted to some aspects of women’s lives (books and art, poetry, studies), we’ve been talking about how violent and macho-male centered films have been this year, and by extension how women’s films are every year undervalued, how few of them there are, and consequently how a woman’s point of view and instrinsic and instilled psychological stance and experience is marginalized when not erased from public culture. One place where the woman’s point of view is found are these mini-series, even when they are written, directed or produced by men. According to Nick, increasingly (that is, since the 1990s), there have been more women on these teams :). Whatever the case, the mini-series is undervalued too, not discussed seriously, partly because they are identified as women’s films.


P. S. This afternoon by snail mail arrived two more DVD movies: the singleton Restoration (1995, with Meg Ryan, Hugh Grant, Sam Neill, it won Oscars for achievement in art and costume design) adapted from Rose Tremain’s novel of the same name; and the 6 part Aristocrats adapted (1999, by Harriet O’Carroll) from the non-ficton book on the 18th century aristocrats, the Lennox sisters by Stella Tillyard. More to watch!

Posted by: Ellen

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