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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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May 20, 2020 | 7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Category: Virtual
Location: Zoom video-conference
Cost: Free

Discussing literature with a professor and classmates can be one of the most memorable parts of college. Thanks to a partnership with the Department of English, Wayne State University alumni can relive that experience from the comfort of their own home by participating in a Zoom video-conference discussion about an 11-page short story by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65) entitled The Old Nurse’s Story (1852). You and your fellow readers will join Professor Michael Scrivener to discuss this classic Victorian ghost story replete with class conflict, sexual passion, paternal tyranny, domestic violence, sibling rivalry, and of course, ghosts and other Gothic elements including a ruined organ that plays music mysteriously.  

Upon registration for the session, you will be emailed a PDF copy of the story. Please read it ahead of time and come prepared with comments and questions.

Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-65), a prolific author of novels and stories, was one of the great writers of the Victorian period. Born into a middle-class Unitarian family, she married a Unitarian clergyman whose church was in Manchester, the center of the Industrial Revolution. Mother of five children—four surviving—she incorporated into her writing, domestic life as well as controversial public topics, such as working-class radicalism, the so-called “Fallen Woman,” women’s rights, and class conflict.  

This particular story—she published over thirty stories—was published first in Charles Dickens’s very popular magazine, Household Words, a liberal journal aimed at a middle- and working-class audience. The story appeared in the Christmas issue, which usually included ghost stories. In addition to her six novels and ten novellas and story collections, she wrote the first biography of Charlotte Bronte, whom she knew well.

Michael Scrivener, Ph.D. is a distinguished professor in the Department of English, and has particular expertise on 18th & 19th century British literature and culture, emphasis on Romanticism and Jewish studies. 

For more information about this event, please contact Steve Zoski at (313) 577-1171 or steve.zoski@wayne.edu.