Q&A with Laura Robinson: L.M. Montgomery, gender, and a new scholarly work

Dr. Laura Robinson is the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at Acadia University. She has published widely on the work of L.M. Montgomery, the celebrated author of Anne of Green Gables. Robinson is a consulting editor for the Journal of L.M. Montgomery Studies and has consulted on national and international Montgomery events and exhibits. She is also co-editor of L.M. Montgomery and Gender, a new scholarly book that explores Montgomery’s challenges to gender constructions.

We caught up with Laura Robinson to ask about the new book and what sparked her interest in L.M. Montgomery.

What led you to study the works of L.M. Montgomery?

While I was doing my PhD at Queen’s, I was interested in the influence of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a book I loved and read multiple times as a child. I decided to write a thesis on those types of girls’ stories, which can look conservative on the surface but convey a message of empowerment for the heroines. I added Charlotte Yonge’s The Daisy Chain series and Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series to my examination of Alcott’s series. Montgomery quickly took over my research focus, and I was hooked.

What is your favourite quotation from the author or one of her characters?

After flavouring a cake with liniment by mistake, Anne of Green Gables says to her adoptive parent Marilla, “Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” I can relate to that!

How is her work educational today?

In addition to being highly entertaining and engaging, Montgomery’s writing – her novels, short stories, poetry, journals, and letters – provide a wealth of information about the world in her time period. For example, her 1921 novel Rilla of Ingleside depicts the Canadian home front during the First World War, highlighting the role of women at home, and traces Canadian involvement in the war. Her journals reveal a well-read individual who was concerned about global issues and trends. While she was a minister’s wife who wrote children’s stories and looks quite conservative on the surface, she interrogated gender, sexuality, and class identities in exciting ways.

Who would benefit from reading this book?

This volume was intended to be a research tool. We hope it will interest historians, feminists, gender scholars, scholars of literature, and Montgomery enthusiasts generally. Students might use it if they were writing research papers on Montgomery’s work or on children’s literature or gender.

Where can we learn more?

My co-editor, Holly Pike, and I did a podcast interview with Maudcast, the podcast of the L.M. Montgomery Institute.

About the book

L.M. Montgomery and Gender (2021), Laura M. Robinson and E. Holly Pike (editors), McGill-Queen’s University Press, ISBN 9780228008798, 416 pages (cloth, paperback, ebook), $39.95 paperback

The book is available from bookstores online or from McGill-Queen’s University Press. It is also available through Acadia’s Vaughan Memorial Library.

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