Roundtable

The Rest Is History

Judging the fashions of female politicians, revisiting a famous muse, and searching for history in a swamp.

By Angela Serratore

Friday, September 02, 2016

Jane Morris in La Pio de Tolomei, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, c. 1868.

• Searching for Emily Brontë: “The real danger in leaving an Emily-sized cache of documents (i.e., almost nothing) is that people will usually mistake you for being exceedingly mysterious, no matter the truth of your day-to-day. In Emily’s case this irresistible penchant for myth-making (egged on by her mystical poetry and horrifyingly beautiful single novel) has led many of her most devoted followers to discard or at least gloss over the few things we do know about her: she was mean as a snake, she liked to cook and clean, and she was a horrific speller.” (The Hairpin)

• Examining the friendship of Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht. (New Statesman)

• The life of Jane Morris, nineteenth-century artists' muse: “One evening, in the fall of 1857, while sitting with her younger sister, Bessie, in the audience of a makeshift theater in Oxford, seventeen-year-old Jane Burden was spotted by Rossetti and Edward Burne-Jones, a fellow Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood member. Always on the hunt for ‘stunners’ to employ as sitters for his medieval-inspired art, Rossetti decided that this sultry young woman would make a perfect Queen Guinevere. Janey, then living with her parents and two siblings in a tiny cottage behind a pub, was soon posing in the drawing room of the lodgings shared by Burne-Jones, Rossetti, and William Morris, the man who, by the following spring, would be her fiancé.” (Paris Review Daily)

• In the Great Dismal Swamp, archaeologists and historians search for clues about the lives and fates of runaway slaves. (Smithsonian)

• Female politicians getting asked about their clothing: timeless! “In 1920, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment, sparking a brief period in which at least twenty women were elected mayor of small, remote towns scattered through the American West, many on prohibition platforms. But they still received the same coverage that Rankin did several years earlier. Amy Kaukonen, for example, was elected mayor in Fairport, Ohio in 1922. The newspapers said that the trained chemist and physician had a ‘slim figure’ and ‘stylish haircut.’ Dressed in ‘feminine clothing,’ she was nothing like the Amazonian feminists ‘the popular imagination conjures up.’” (The New Republic)  

• The women behind the men of socialism. (Public Books)