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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

 

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The Authorized Version

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

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Guest Author Ann Campbell with Families of the Heart

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ December 16, 2022

 Christmas just naturally brings with it thoughts of families: The Holy Family, families in need, our own families. Now, more than ever, we realize that that the so-important word family encompasses more than the traditional biological unit the term often implies. Ann Campbell’s book Families of the Heart breaks new ground in showing that this concept has its roots deep into the eighteenth century. 

Ann is a sister Janeite and serves as co-chair of the Southern Idaho chapter of the Jane Austen Society of North American. She has published numerous articles about family, courtship and marriage in the 18th century and is a professor of English at Boise State University. 

Donna: Ann, welcome to The Authorized Version and congratulations on your new book with its gorgeous cover! Can you start by giving us an overview of your central premise? 

Ann: I argue that close relationships between young women and certain mentors and close friends are best understood as what I call surrogate families. By surrogate families, I mean family-like groups of individuals that the heroine deliberately surrounds herself with in order to create the sort of family she thinks she deserves and consequently attract the sort of husband she merits. Sisterly ties are the most important of these chosen connections. Through close readings of ten canonical eighteenth-century British novels, I show how their portrayal of surrogate families changes over time and as more female novelists adopt the convention. To sum it all up, male authors such as Samuel Richardson view surrogate families as a way for their heroines to show off their virtue and earn perfect husbands, while female authors such as Frances Burney and Eliza Haywood depict surrogate families as a way for young women to learn about themselves and the world, and to surround themselves with kindred spirits whose affection sometimes ends in being more consistent and reliable than that of even the best husband. 

Donna: That is fascinating, Ann. I Love the way you develop your premise by using great novels of the period, especially Fanny Burney, since we know she was one of Jane Austen's favorite authors. What led you to the topic? 

Ann: I've been working on eighteenth-century novels for my entire career, and I've always found female friendship to be one of their most interesting aspects. As I mention in the book's acknowledgments, I have always relied on treasured, long-standing friendships with my own "surrogate sisters" to make it through difficult times and to think through problems. So, it's a topic that's dear to my heart as well as intellectually compelling to me. 

Donna: As an only child, I certainly identify with the concept of “surrogate sisters.” The research involved in writing this must have been intense. Tell us about it. 

Ann: This project involved a lot of research: years and years of reading and writing. I didn't do any archival research because the sources I needed were available in modern editions. It's such an exciting process to read what's been written about an important book over decades and in some cases, centuries. Some of the most fun-to-read scholarship is actually from the 1950s and 1960s, because scholars at that time were not afraid to be judgmental and nasty. Occasionally, they even take the novelists they're studying to task for inconsistencies or stylistic oddities. And their writing is straightforward with no jargon, which I really appreciate. 

Donna: I love research—I often say it’s perhaps my favorite part of the writing process. And one of the best things is the surprises that occur. What was your most surprising discovery?

 Ann: That Daniel Defoe, the earliest author I discuss and also a man, was at bottom more pragmatically feminist than even the most progressive female authors I covered. His female protagonist Moll Flanders transgressed every sort of legal, conventional, and moral boundary women were supposed to be circumscribed by and she still ends up wealthy, happy, and married to a jolly, easygoing husband who wisely leaves it to her to make all the family's business decisions. He rewarded her regardless of all the boundaries she crossed in her many adventures.

 Donna: That’s great, Ann! What a romp! I think Defoe did believe in redemption and uses it as a theme in much of his work.

I would love for my readers to make comments or ask questions in the comment box below and I’m sure you would be happy to answer any queries. Where else can we learn more about you and your work? 

Ann: I'd love to hear from your readers. I always check my email if anyone is interested in continuing today's discussion with me directly

My department has a web page that lists my publications and research interests.

They can also read some of my scholarship via a Boise State University portal called Scholarworks.

Finally, Families of the Heart is available here.

 

 

 

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

Read More: Regency World

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Reader Comments:

Thank you again, Ann. And Merry Christmas to you and your family!
I enjoyed your brief references to Emma and Mansfield Park. I'm wondering if you might be saving more Jane Austen for another work?
-Donna, December 16, 2022

Donna, this is a wonderful article and I'm so honored to be featured in your blog. I think there is certainly some work on Jane Austen in my future. She is an intimidating author to write about because she is so deeply beloved and her writing is so brilliant. But my involvement with the Southern Idaho region of the Jane Austen Society has really encouraged me to spend more time researching her life and work.
-Ann Campbell, December 17, 2022

Hooray! I look forward to reading whatever you write--and I'm sure my readers will want to know about it. All in due time.
-Donna, December 20, 2022

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