From a Q & A with Joanne Rendell about her new novel, Crossing Washington Square:
You have a PhD in English Literature. How did this help with writing Crossing Washington Square?Also see Rendell's Q & A with Allison Winn Scotch.
My own academic experiences are everywhere in this book. Like Diana, I once taught Sylvia Plath to undergraduates. Like Rachel, I sometimes struggled to ignite a discussion in a classroom full of tired students! I’ve also seen first hand how vicious, snobbish, and competitive academics can be with each other. Yet, at the same time, I have seen what a fascinating and important world academia really is.
While in grad school, I also received a wonderful grounding in literary theory which really shaped this novel. I know a lot of people come out of literature degrees complaining about too much theory and not enough reading of the books themselves. But I really valued the theoretical and philosophical side of my studies. I enjoyed asking questions about how we look at books and why and how politics and culture shape what we read and the books that are written. I particularly loved exploring the debates about “high culture” and “popular culture” – in other words, whether it is more important to study Shakespeare or whether Stephen King and Nora Roberts are worthy of study too.
This high culture and popular culture debate is very important in the novel. Rachel is a scholar of popular fiction, while Diana is a rigorous Sylvia Plath scholar who thinks that popular fiction is an easy ride for students. Why did you write about this?
As I said, I’ve always found this debate fascinating. I wanted to...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Joanne Rendell's website and MySpace page.
The Page 69 Test: The Professors' Wives' Club.
The Page 99 Test: Crossing Washington Square.