Conference: Elizabeth von Arnim — Identities (2 July 2019)

International Conference, University of Toulon, 2 July 2019


About the conference:

Mary Annette Beauchamp, Mary Arnim, Elizabeth, Countess Russell – during her lifetime Elizabeth von Arnim was known under many names, while the one we use today is a composite she never used. As an upper-middle-class girl from Australia, she managed to be first a German and then an English Countess, sometimes lived in Switzerland and built her last house in Southern France, near Toulon, where the university now holds a part of her private library. Von Arnim loved guises and usually signed her books “By the Author of Elizabeth and Her German Garden”, but also wrote under the pseudonym Alice Cholmondeley and published anonymously. She enjoyed playing with different personas in life as much as in her writing as G.B. Stern remembered:

“What a devil she was, but what good company! … – delicate & ironic: qualities she would have appreciated, though she would immediately have done her specialité de la maison act, wide-eyed & innocent & what-have-I-done-poor-little-me-of-all-people. … But she used to tingle & rejoice when occasionally she met her match.”

Although all her novels share a clearly distinctive voice, von Arnim’s works are more complex and multi-faceted than the existing scholarship would suggest. The autobiographical dimension of her most popular character, Elizabeth, has been quite well explored, yet von Arnim’s books have mostly been discussed in the context of feminist literary studies and the feminine middlebrow. More recent scholarship is now also beginning to consider her as a modernist and a political writer of transnational narratives.