Thursday, July 27, 2023

A Christmas Carol In Nineteenth-Century America, 1844-1870 - Comparative American Studies

Sol Eytinge's illustration of the three spirits visiting Scrooge in Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, taken from the 1868 Ticknor and Fields American edition.

Excited to say that my article on the tumultuous Transatlantic reception of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, 1844-1870, has just been published open access in Comparative American Studies. You can read it for free here. Abstract below...

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Last Gift: The Christmas Stories of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

Coming this October from Louisiana State University Press! This is the first anthology of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman's extensive and neglected holiday writings—including one previously lost story! Here's the official blurb:
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman (1852–1930) was one of the most popular American writers at the turn of the twentieth century, and her annual Christmas stories appeared in magazines and periodicals across the globe. Since then, the extraordinary stories that once delighted her legions of fans every festive season have gone largely out of print and unread. Now, for the first time, The Last Gift presents a collection of Freeman’s best Christmas writing, introducing these funny, poignant, provocative, and surprisingly timely holiday tales to a new generation of readers.
Here's the catalog copy:

And here's some advance praise from some wonderful Freeman experts!

“Thomas Ruys Smith’s edition of Freeman’s Christmas stories is a revelation! All our presumptions about holiday stories being drenched in sentimentality are demolished by the ways in which Freeman probes the multiple meanings inherent in the acts of giving and receiving gifts and exposes the forms of both solitude and communion inherent in Christmas. This collection transforms our understanding of the season and enhances the literary reputation of this remarkable author.”—Alfred Bendixen, executive director of the American Literature Association
“A lovely and varied collection of Freeman’s often-neglected Christmas stories. Smith’s lively introduction contextualizes Freeman’s portrayal of the holiday season, in all of its complexity, and the domestic tensions that Christmas evoked for nineteenth-century women.”—Leah Blatt Glasser, author of In a Closet Hidden: The Life and Work of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman 
The Last Gift will prove anyone wrong who once said with Mark Twain, ‘I hate Xmas stories.’ Funny and grave, delicate and ironical, Freeman’s Christmas stories talk about old age and queer desires, ecoanxiety and the love of trees, class tension, capitalistic drives, and the beauty of an old child braving it all to have her ‘Christmas once.’ A gift for all, and for all seasons.”—C├ęcile Roudeau, coeditor of New Perspectives on Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: Reading with and against the Grain

 “Celebrated in her own time not only as a New England regionalist but also as writer of popular Christmas stories, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman challenged the genre's sentimental limits by questioning the relationships between charity and obligation, theft and gift, and transgression and redemption which her characters experience at Christmas. As Thomas Ruys Smith argues in his excellent, lively, and comprehensive introduction to these twenty-five stories, some published for the first time since their original appearance, Freeman's unjustly neglected Christmas stories reveal a new understanding both of the genre's significance and of Freeman's career as a professional writer.”Donna Campbell, author of Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing.

“Finally, a volume that reprints Freeman’s Christmas fare. Freeman’s Christmas stories are inventive and experimental, emphasizing the emotional and practical complexities of the holiday, with profound implications for gendered labour, class inequality, the building of community, and the pleasures and perils of consumption. The impressive introduction frames the stories within the history of the holiday and Freeman’s delight in its intrigue.”Stephanie Palmer, co-editor of New Perspectives on Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: Reading with and against the Grain

Looking forward to reintroducing these stories to a new host of readers this Christmas! More info here, and you can pre-order both ebook and paperback from Amazon here.

River of Dreams: Imagining the Mississippi Before Mark Twain - now in paperback!


Sixteen years later, River of Dreams is now available in paperback! Grab your copy here and see if it still holds up...

Friday, March 31, 2023

Black Beauty: Redwings Horse Sanctuary Edition

March 30th is Anna Sewell's birthday, which made it the perfect moment to announce an exciting project that has been in the works for a while. Working in collaboration with Redwings Horse Sanctuary and the UEA Publishing Project I've edited and written an afterword for a new edition of Black Beauty - pictured above! Rather thrillingly, Jacqueline Wilson has also written an original foreword for the book. Every copy sold will raise money for Redwings and we've got lots more planned for this collaboration. Below, some of the early coverage, including an interview with Radio Norfolk and a feature on ITV Anglia News.

Friday, March 10, 2023

East Anglian Book Awards


It was a thrill and an honour to serve as a judge for the East Anglian Book Awards this year. Reading the entries for the The Mal Peet Children’s Award was a complete joy - and an eye-opener too. So many extraordinary creatives producing books for children in the region!

My final shortlist below...

Friday, January 06, 2023

Nineteenth-Century Literature: Enchantments of Waverley

Many years in the making, my article on Walter Scott and the reading lives of nineteenth-century American children is out now in Nineteenth-Century Literature. Abstract below...

Saturday, December 31, 2022

Gilded Age and Progressive Era Podcast: Five Little Peppers

In what is fast becoming a Christmas tradition, I went on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era Podcast - along with my colleague and co-editor Hilary Emmett - to discuss our new edition of Five Little Peppers. Props to Hilary for the reading!