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  • Kristin Bundesen, PhD

Historian crashes Modern Language Party

I am pleased and terrified to announce that I will be presenting a paper title "Painting the 16th century" at the New England Modern Language Association conference this week. The conference is virtual - of course.

It should come as no surprise that when I was invited to present on the topic of revisioning author as artist, I reverted to my favorite books for source material. If I was going to a conference of academics from a different discipline, I needed to take something familiar.

Here's the abstract:

Painting the 16th century. Dorothy Dunnett (1923-2001) influenced generations of writers across multiple genres. Not surprising, as she also wrote across genres including, historical fiction, an historical perspective of Macbeth, and a mystery series set in the 20th century whose hero is a spy and a painter. Her most influential work is a set of 6 books referred to as The Lymond Chronicles.
Readers of Dunnett can detect her influence when they see it in the works of others specifically through the use of color and appeal to the sense of smell. Through her writing, the world of the Anglo-Scottish borders, the steppes of Russia, the court of Suleiman the Magnificent, illicit print shops, the sieges of Tripoli and Calais and the peace of a glade transform from description to an immersive experience. This presentation will highlight some of Dunnett’s use of color as a way to not only read about, but also “see” the 16th century European experience.

When I started working on the project a couple weeks ago, I found to my horror that the first book of the series, Game of Kings, was no where to be found. Two years ago when I moved cross country, I only packed up one set of the series - yes, I have multiple copies of the whole darn thing as well as Dunnett's second series The House of Niccolo - paperback and hardcover. So, how is it possible that I have been in rural New Hampshire for two years without Game of Kings and survived?

My biggest conundrum in putting together the NeMLA paper has been limiting examples to something that can be presented in 15-20 minutes. With thousands of pages across six books, this is challenging. Another unexpected challenge was resisting the urge to stop working on the paper and just drown myself in the text - again.

I've reread these books, all 6 of them, every other year for almost four decades. Plus, I have the audiobooks just in case I have to drive somewhere far away. Replacing the book was simple but I can not replace it with the same edition to restore the set. The series has recently been re-released with new cover art and a larger page format. Shoot! Now I have an incomplete first Vintage set and will clearly have to buy the rest of the five books to complete the new second Vintage set. Probably a good idea as two covers are missing from the incomplete set as it is and the hardcovers are still on the other side of the country.

My session will be Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 12:00 pm Eastern time.

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