Friday, December 11, 2009

Louisa May Alcott on PBS

Humanities Magazine has an insightful article by John Matteson on Louisa May Alcott, and reports, 'NEH-funded documentary Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women, to be aired December 28 on PBS'. Mark your calendars! I'm sure it will be great.

In the article Matteson writes, 'The Alcotts’ idealism reached its pinnacle in 1843, when Bronson and an English reformer, Charles Lane, cofounded a utopian community called Fruitlands, whose members swore off all animal products, as well as coffee, tea, and any commodity generated by slavery. The Fruitlands community called itself a “consociate family,” meaning that all its members were entitled to an equal claim on one another’s loyalties and affections. Ill-planned from the start, Fruitlands foundered in less than a year, but not before Bronson and Lane had proposed that the men imitate the Shakers by segregating themselves from the women. Since the only women left at Fruitlands by this time were Abigail and her daughters, the plan essentially meant that Bronson would leave his family. Eleven-year-old Louisa responded with tearful prayers. In her journal, she begged God to keep her family together. The Alcotts did not separate. However, Louisa’s experience of first gaining a larger family and then watching her biological family nearly dissolve left a tremendous impression. It both convinced her of the importance of family unity as a bulwark against misfortune and opened her mind to the possibility of forming close attachments on some basis other than blood or marriage. Both the centrality of the family and a willingness to redefine family on broadly inclusive terms were to characterize much of her later writing.'

Of course, we at Godine know all about it, thanks to Kit Bakke's extraordinary and engaging book, Miss Alcott's Email: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds. It is particularly popular with book groups, and we've offered a selection of resources as well as a special offer if you decide to make it next month's pick.

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