Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Literary Knitting

Over a year ago now, I finished my MA dissertation on knitting in 20th C women's literature. While on my honeymoon. Romantic, I know. (I did give my new husband the courtesy of sleep though and did my writing/editing/panicking in the bathroom so the lights wouldn't bother him. Aren't I a good wife?)

Anyway, since I began that project, either because I am automatically attracted to books that are likely to have knitting in them, or because my eyes have been opened to the references, I have been seeing knitting everywhere in the literary realm. The texts I focused on in my thesis were the short story "Art Work" by A.S. Byatt (look out for even more knitting references in her other books) and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse. Byatt has written a great article in The Guardian, in which she "follows the tangled threads between text and textiles." All good stuff.

Not all stories have as many needlework references as these, but the references are certainly there. Right now I am reading Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. When I first picked it up, it really didn’t occur to me that it would have anything to do with textiles at all, which of course it does. In it, our heroine, Margaret, moves from the gentrified south of England to the rather rougher industrial north – where of course industry includes textile production. I am only about halfway through the novel (partly listening to it while knitting via librivox.org – where books in the public domain can be recorded and listened to for free) and I can already see that a major motif is the contrast of the women characters' needlework projects with the large-scale industrial textile production that goes on in the town.

I'll have to let you know what I think once I have finished the book. In the meantime, other books that I have come across include The Shipping News by Annie Proulx, which is just so lovely - "It's a kind of trick, Dad, because it's just a long, long, fat string and it turns into a scarf ."

What else? I'll have to list them as they come to me and put them under the category of Literary Knitting. We could do this with movies too, but we'll see how it goes.

2 comments:

rambleonrosemary said...

First, thanks for introducing me to librivox! I'm very excited to start using it.

Second, ever since I heard about the subject of your Masters dissertation, I've wanted to ask you if I could read a copy. Any chance you'd be willing to let me? It sounds fascinating!

meghanaf said...

Glad you like the librivox link - some readings can be kind of sketchy, but overall it's good to knit to.

Sent to the dissertation to the email on your FB profile - hope that works - no pressure to actually read the whole thing (or to read it at all!).