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  • Introduction
  • Michelle Ann Abate (bio)

In one of the opening chapters of L. M. Montgomery's classic girls' novel Anne of Green Gables, the eponymous character muses: "Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive—it's such an interesting world" (21). These comments would prove prophetic, for since the original publication of Anne of Green Gables in 1908, readers and critics have been finding it "splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about" the novel and its characters.

The essays contained in this special themed-issue about Anne of Green Gables take their cue from this comment by Montgomery, demonstrating that even more than a century after the novels initial release, there are still an array of surprising, impressive, and exciting elements to discover in it. Indeed, as Montgomery goes on to assert in a passage that follows the one quoted above: "It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?" (21).

The volume opens with Kathleen A. Miller's essay, "Haunted Heroines: The Gothic Imagination and the Female Bildungsromane of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, and L. M. Montgomery." As its title implies, the essay reads Montgomery's classic girls' novel not through the lenses of domestic fiction, the sentimental novel, or regional writing as is often the case, but rather through the more unexpected lens of the Gothic tradition. To do so, Miller places Anne of Green Gables in dialogue with the work of a female author who is perhaps most well-known for her Gothicized tales about young women coming of age: Jane Austen. The essay demonstrates that, both in Anne of Green Gables and throughout the bulk of her literary career, Montgomery engaged in an extended meditation on the Gothic formula and its impact on girls' intellectual, emotional, and especially romantic development. Providing close readings of key passages from Anne of Green Gables, along with Rainbow Valley (1919), Rilla of Ingleside (1921), and Emily of New Moon (1923), Miller demonstrates how Montgomery is at times closely mirroring the Gothic style and, at other moments, powerfully manipulating [End Page v] it. In so doing, she invites us to look at Montgomery's literary oeuvre in a fresh and original way.

The following essay, Val Czerny's "A Return to the Wild: Or, Long-Lasting, Mystical 'Lunacy' in Anne of Green Gables," continues this interest in uncovering new sources of inspiration on Montgomery's text. Building off ongoing discussions about the "real-life" basis for Anne's character, Czerny argues "it is also profitable to trace her origins, since it seems that we must, not to a particular person or to memories of Montgomery's, but to a simple, but wild, intimation—that is, to an element of untamed consciousness." Although she concedes that Montgomery's eponymous character is influenced by various concrete elements of the world that she inhabits, she goes on to argue: "Anne is additionally a wild element providing insight into that sort of borderland, or 'lunatic,' thinking that creatively celebrates the symbiosis between the 'real' and the imagined." In a comment that encapsulates the aims and intention of her argument in many ways, Cznery writes: "It is not enough, then, merely to analyze Anne in order to find an avenue into her creator's mind and life. Anne of Green Gables, rather, is a book about unbridled access into the long-lasting powers of wild consciousness perceived and exercised by crones, in the archetypal sense of the word."

Katherine Slater's "'The Other Was Whole': Anne of Green Gables, Trauma and Mirroring" likewise pivots around issues of mental development, psychological identification, and the unconscious. Writing about the longstanding appeal of Montgomery's unorthodox central character, Slater observes: "Anne Shirley is mercurial to the point of ridiculousness: she is a narcissist; she is a rebel." True to form, by the close of Montgomery's text, Anne is transformed into a figure who is quite different from the one that readers encountered at the beginning of the narrative...


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