“Charming and Sane”: School Editions of Cranford, 1905–1966
As I have tried to demonstrate in the previous chapter, a close examination of illustrated editions of Cranford, especially editions produced in the years 1891 thorough 1913 or so, provides a window through which we can see what amounts to a national project to authenticate the identity of England as a nation and the national character of Great Britain through the association of “classic” English authors with their specific regional landscapes, those landscapes in turn individually taken to stand in as representative of the nation. Such a project is simultaneously metaphoric and ideological, figured most concretely, perhaps, in the mapping of the nation as literary. In this chapter, I would like to consider a weirdly parallel development in the United States during the first two decades of the twentieth century, for during that time there was an American national educational project that depended on the use of English and American literary texts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a way to fabricate an AngloAmerican identity for immigrants to the United States from the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, people who were decidedly neither Anglo nor American. Since this is a publication history of Cranford, my focus will be on the use of Cranford in American education (mostly secondary) in the first two decades of the twentieth century, and my justification for doing so is quite simple: there was a brief but intense explosion in the production of explicitly school editions of Cranford during those years. As I have done with the illustrated editions, I will read the school editions as one thread of a larger cultural dialogue, bringing into the open most specifically the discourses that engaged immigration hopes and anxieties in order to sketch out how useful Cranford was as a literary venue through which to affirm immigration optimism through the figurative assuagement of immigration anxieties. Once the genre of school editions was established in America, its form founds its way into British school-text publishing in the 1950s and 60s, but the context within which the genre was deployed produced different tonalities and meanings. I will look at two examples of English school editions that show how those editions project cultural anxiety and hegemony simultaneously; in the context of the international English teaching industry in Asia we see one form of that and in the British domestic context we see another. Then, turning back to the years contemporary with the flowering of the American school editions, I will explore the production of dramatic adaptations of Cranford and places and characters associated with the conflation of Cranford and Knutsford for British school use in recitation and performance, in order to capture the moment when
Cranford began to be deployed with less reverence, becoming more intimately absorbed into literate culture through the breakdown of its inviolable integrity as a text and the diffusion and variation of its disparate narrative, thematic, and imagistic elements.