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Reviewed by:
  • Making Avonlea: L. M. Montgomery and Popular Culture
  • Teya Rosenberg (bio)
Making Avonlea: L. M. Montgomery and Popular Culture. Edited by Irene Gammel. Toronto: UP of Toronto, 2002

Anne of Green Gables has long held an important place in Canadian culture. The acknowledgement of the book as literature has not always been secure, but its significance for the popular imagination dates from its publication in 1906 and was well established during my childhood in the 1970s. I read the Anne series and many other L. M. Montgomery books, all of which were readily available in multiple copies at my branch of the Provincial Library in St. John's, Newfoundland. I saw the Green Gables house in Cavendish and attended the musical version of Anne of Green Gables at the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown during family vacations on Prince Edward Island. While my own fascination with Montgomery's writings and characters has been low-key for many years, it is hard to miss the growing amount of material available on Anne and her creator. Making Avonlea: L. M. Montgomery and Popular Culture does an excellent job of documenting the range of activities and artifacts generated by interest in Montgomery and her writings. It covers academic and popular, theoretical, and concrete elements of the Montgomery phenomenon and provides a fascinating read about the ways in which people have engaged and continue to engage with the writings, characters, and values of L. M. Montgomery and her creations.

Making Avonlea is divided into three sections, each of which examines a different aspect of Anne and Montgomery studies or production. The first section, "Mapping Avonlea: Cultural Value and Iconography," deals with different approaches to and aspects of academic studies. The section starts with an article that places Anne in a scholarly context, Carole Gerson's "Anne of Green Gables Goes to University: L. M. Montgomery and Academic Culture," a useful overview of the place of Anne of Green Gables in the scholarly and national canons. Cecily Devereux's "Anatomy of a 'National Icon': Anne of Green Gables and the 'Bosom Friends' Affair" places Anne in the intersection of scholarly and popular discourse, examining the seizing on and misrepresenting of a scholarly paper on Anne's female friendships by a journalist and the resulting furor in the Canadian newspapers across the country, indicating the degree to which Anne is a national icon. Also included are articles that examine thematic elements of the Anne books, such as the symbolic use of hair and the significance of Montgomery's use of landscape. Other articles examine Montgomery's journals and the insights they provide about the writer and her productions, the visual qualities of Montgomery's writing and its connection to her photography, and the impact of cover art on the Emily of New Moon books.

The second section of the collection, "Viewing Avonlea: Film, Television, Drama, and Musical" examines, as the title suggests, the variety of visual interpretations. Perhaps the most interesting juxtaposition of the collection occurs in this section with the very different and conflicting readings of the Anne films produced by Kevin Sullivan. Eleanor Hersey, in '"It's All Mine': The Modern Woman as Writer in Sullivan's Anne of Green Gables Films," argues that the films work to reinterpret Anne for a current audience, presenting an empowering view of Anne as a writer, and should be assessed in terms of what they accomplish rather than the ways in which they diverge from the books. K. L. Poe, on the other hand, in "Who's Got the Power? Montgomery, Sullivan, and the Unsuspecting Viewer," argues that the films erase the subversive and empowering elements of the books. Two more essays deal with Sullivan productions—Ann F. Howey's [End Page 124] informative discussion of the shift from Montgomery's use of Tennyson's "Lancelot and Elaine" to Sullivan's use of "The Lady of Shalott" and the effect on meaning that shift has, and Benjamin Lefebvre's "Road to Avonlea: A Coproduction of the Disney Corporation" that considers the making of the television series and the economic and cultural negotiations Sullivan had to make to satisfy the Disney Corporation, while trying to retain some...


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pp. 124-125
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