Bronteana: Bronte Studies Blog Archives

December 29, 2005


Filed under: Anecdotes,Uncategorized — by bronteana @ 1:56 pm

Graduate Seminar in Brontë Disseminations

It is too late for me, at any rate, but perhaps it will be useful to those like myself who are desperately seeking study of the Brontës. The University of Dalhousie in Halifax, Nova Scotia are running a graduate seminar this year (2005-2006) called Brontë Disseminations. If only I did not have to stay here this last year… this would have suited me exactly! But it was not to be. Still, it looks like this university's English department has more Brontë study than anywhere else in Canada. Be sure that I will be applying there shortly!

There is so little on the Brontë front in Canada that I really must leave that there. However, I admit that it seems appropriate to me that it is Halifax that seems to be the hub of Brontë studies. I believe in coincidence. I will take the liberty of telling this digressive story because it illustrates the very real aspect of the coincidence quite nicely and in a vaguely Janian manner, coincidences being one of the major 'flaws' of the text, and this story being all about finding cousins in incredible circumstances.

Several years ago, I began some serious research into my family history. I traced one branch back to Nova Scotia, where they were settled by the British government in the 1750s. They arrived first in Halifax, then went on to found the city of Lunenburg nearby. They are by no means numerous or famous, just one of many old families. And so, I went to Nova Scotia in order to gain more information and to see some of the places connected with them. I had never set foot in the province before, and knew no one but my mother demanded that I find actual relatives and not only graves and names on paper.

No problem, right? One week, in a strange land? Of course I can find relatives. I ignored the imperative and went on with my studies. At the provincial archives, on the first visit, I met someone in the elevator. She later helped me figure out their catalogues. When she heard that the name I was researching was Boutilier she told me that a book was just published on local families, including mine and moreover that the book signing was the following day, and she gave me directions to someone's house.

So, we turned off the highway and up a long gravel road running into dense forest. We didn't get far before a couple leaped out of the forest and stopped our car. "Oh, we thought you were someone else" they said. It was the place, though. We walked over but no one came to the door. "Hello!" I shouted. A voice from the other end of the house told us to come in. I walked into the livingroom and saw an elderly woman sitting on a sofa, drinking tea- a guest for the book signing. She looked up and smiled at me. "Hello," I said. "I'm a Boutilier." "So am I." She said. She proved it in the course of our talk by referring to my great great great grandparents Serena Charlotte and William as 'Aunt 'Rena and uncle Billy'.

To make a longer story shorter, we travelled on to Lunenburg where I saw the church where my ancestors were married in 1760 (my friends tease me because it is called St.John's…). When I saw it, the most recent renovations were from the 1850s I believe. Within two months it was burned to the ground by arsonists.

In Halifax itself, there are two streets and a suburbed named after my family. And now, the university there is only one with a vibrant study of the Brontës! I suppose I should have known. 😉



  1. you’re FAMOUS! hehe.

    Comment by UCSBClassics53 — December 29, 2005 @ 4:30 pm |Reply

  2. That’s funny, because we’re just preparing a post with several Brontë courses around and that’s one of them :). I suppose in a couple of days it will be published.

    M. (BrontëBlog)

    Comment by Anonymous — December 29, 2005 @ 4:42 pm |Reply

  3. to ucsbclassics53:

    Not famous, I said! Not famous! 😉

    Comment by Brontëana — December 29, 2005 @ 9:39 pm |Reply

  4. to M:

    I’m glad to hear of your up-coming post. It will be most welcome. I’ve been disappointed so far. While searching one of the top universities my advisor is encouraging me to apply to, all I found there regarding the Brontes was a Jane Austen list serv with some very uncharitable people and 7 or 8 pages of Bronte bashing posts. So, not exactly welcoming on first glance! 😦

    Comment by Brontëana — December 29, 2005 @ 9:41 pm |Reply

  5. It’s odd how some believe we must choose one or the other (Are you Austen or a Bronte? they ask). I wouldn’t want to do without the writing of either (their voices compliment each other). Can’t we be both romantic and wry? Yes, I know CB criticized JA, but then, I would be cranky, too, if someone advised me to write like another! 🙂

    Good luck finding a Brontëan place of study.

    Comment by frankengirl — December 29, 2005 @ 11:02 pm |Reply

  6. Hi Bronteana!!
    Your adventure about searching for your roots is really interesting and inspiring! Reading your entry reminded me of reading L.M.Montgomery’s (another fave author of mine) journals or her stories (esp. Emily of New Mooon).
    You should definitly write about your adventures and compile them into essays or stories..I am sure they’d be a delight to read 😀

    The English department in my college is having a seminar on Bronte next semester that I am really excited about! It’ll be my first class entirely dedicated to Bronte. I can’t wait!! I just finished reading Shirley for the first time today and I must say I found very engaging.

    Frankengirl, as for having to choose between Bronte and Austen…I’ve had those doubts myself. But then I think of Lizzy Bennet’s rebellious nature, Anne Elliot plainness, the fortitude of Elionor Dashwood, and the hidden passions in Fanny Price and then I know that Austen’s heroines are not ALL that different from Bronte’s heroines…though they might be rather mellow (?!)

    Still..I’d choose Bronte any day 🙂
    Miss Austen and I would run into some issues…

    Comment by mysticgypsy — December 29, 2005 @ 11:19 pm |Reply

  7. to frankengirl (and mysticgypsy as well):

    You know, for one I don’t really see the point in the constant comparison either- they wrote in two entirely different modes. Where is the use in saying one style is better than the other? Romanticism appeals more to me, but I would never say it is ‘better’ than Neo-Classicism.

    What is more troubling is how often I see this sort of bickering when it comes to those who study literature. Once I came across a post in a group on 19th century literature. The post was by a retired literature professor and was called “why I hate mr rochester and the girls who love him”. It was simply a diatribe with a LOT of foul language. I thought at first that it was a 15 year old, sore at having to read Jane Eyre. It was very sad.

    Can’t we all just get along? 😉

    Comment by Brontëana — December 30, 2005 @ 1:21 am |Reply

  8. This is the second time someone has referred me to Montgomery’s works today! (My friend Kristin told me to look up one of Lucy’s short stories which mentions the University of Dalhousie). The thought has crossed my mind. My life is extraordinarily eventful. My friends say that I live in a novel- and sometimes I think I do!

    Comment by Brontëana — December 30, 2005 @ 1:38 am |Reply

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