Wednesday, 5 July 2006

Fannys

Last night I was trying to multitask by eating my dinner and watching Today Tonight at the same time. (Even though top scientists say that splitting your attention leads to a decline in your ability to concentrate overall.) And there was a story called "How Ridiculous", all about the apparent fact that some characters in Enid Blyton books are getting new names in new editions. This indeed is the very TT story Tim mentions in the comments to my previous post, and as he says it was full of lines like "political correctness gone mad! Bureaucracy gone mad!" (Unfortunately nothing was said about Ken Bruce.) TT are getting all upset because Dick and Fanny have said they want to be called Rick and Franny from now on, and while this was grudgingly admitted to be not so entirely unreasonable, their tiresome neurotic-in-training sister Bessy is switching to Beth, because, (quote) get this (unquote), Bessy is a name associated with slavery. Political correctness runs mad! Little kids don't care about that! TT cut to some footage of little kids blissfully not caring about names associated with slavery. (Unfortunately, nothing was said about Mr Widdle and his grotesquely politically incorrect activities on the train.)

All this time the show was being delightfully vague about where these outrageous crimes against Enid were being committed and by whom, other than the "political correctness squad." It doesn't take much thinking to realise that this is clearly a publisher's commercial decision, not a motion carried by the Feminazis of Colour Collective, and a commercial decision entirely aimed at adjusting Blyton's books to the wish of American children not to have to read about what Pecker and Arse did with Silky and Moonface. Bessie is just a daggy old name, not one with any particular negative racial associations. TT is brimfull of bollocks. But you knew that already!

Anyway, the PC squad have been too busy down in the trenches with the Burney Society, who have finally overcome Stateside superstition and reverted to using the form of christian name preferred by the novelist herself:
Beneath the quirkiness, however, a serious battle is raging, a battle that can be summed up in a simple choice: Fanny or Frances? Burney studies have been rocked by the schism between our bufferish enthusiasts - the "Fanny" brigade - and a new wave of North American feminist critics - the "Frances" camp - to whom Burney is a courageous crusader against patriarchal hegemony who should never be demeaned by a diminutive, especially this one. "Of course," the member next to me whispers, blushing, "to them 'fanny' means - you know."

The North Americans are better funded and organised - most of Burney's papers have been snapped up by Montreal's McGill University for, gallingly, the "Frances Burney Archive". But the English are fighting back: splitting away from the parent Burney Society of North America (for, intriguingly, "tax reasons") and mounting a rearguard action against all this foreign "Frances" nonsense.

"If 'Fanny' is good enough for Jane Austen, it's good enough for us," a woman at the back pipes up, to general agreement. "Thank you," a Burney biographer replies, choked with emotion. "Thank you for supporting our Fanny." It's a patriotic sentiment as true, and as fervent, as any whipped up by Owen or Rooney.


Hooray for the Fanny Burney Society.

16 comments:

Tim said...

The big question is: is Fanny waxed? And if so, what does this say about the waxed-fanny loving perverts at TT?

R H said...

Well pardon me, but 'Fanny's' is one of Melbourne's top restaurants. And as Lady S said - after dining there one evening, "I am not a small l liberal, and I am not a small c Christian. I am a Big M Mind!"

Yes, and that's true. Because say what you like about the toffs, they're very big in one regard: bourgeois ideology is beneath them.

Lucy Tartan said...

Yup.

What I want to know is, how come Today Tonight gets to call itself "current affairs" when they waste everyone's time with this sort of garbage....but Barista is waging a one-man campaign against the disembowelling of the public broadcasters and he's doing what they'd call vanity publishing....

Suse said...

I quite like the idea of a country where many people are called Randy objecting to the names Dick and Fanny.

elsewhere said...

Ahem, wasn't Joe the brother of Bessie and Fanny, and Dick the brother of Julian, George, Anne and Timmy the do-o-o-og?

And has anyone thought of another title to replace _Five Go Off In A Caravan Together_?

elsewhere said...

Oops, sorry Dick was George's cousin, of course.

Kate said...

It's like the War on Christmas TM, except it's the War on Stuffy Old Names TM. Next they'll be renaming Nancy Drew as Paris Drew or somesuch because 'Nancy' is an affront to teh gays! [\channelling TT]

Zoe said...

Oooh, can we start a Political Correctness Squad? Please! At first I thought we could be all tracksuits and smeary lippy like Frumpus, but perhaps twin sets, tweed skirts and navy pumps would be the go. We could carry little op shop handbags over our forearms and a cup of tea with a pretty saucer. There would need to be a great deal of lip pursing and head shaking.

I know! Why don't we put an application in for Woodford one year and have a meetup of fun women bloggers?

TimT said...

So, what would the publishers do with this Blyton story, I wonder?

Lucy Tartan said...

Tim, have a read of the post mate ;)

TimT said...

My apologies.

I seem to be developing a habit of skipping some passages.

:(

ThirdCat said...

I always wondered why she was called Fanny. It's a little sad to have the mystery solved. I wonder whether there's a similar explanation for the Swallow and Amazon's Titty. Should I google and ruin a romantic childhood mystery?

Recently, I asked my grandfather why his sister was called Queenie. And he replied, with the acest of smiles, 'because her name was Regina'.

ThirdCat said...

Actually, that should be 'the Swallows and Amazons' Titty'

Anonymous said...

Well, speaking as a person sometimes referred to as "Fanny with an R", I prefer to be called "Crunt".

Em said...

I'll admit, I'm one of the Frances Burney camp, but not because of the connotations of the word "Fanny". Nor is that the argument of those who have vocally called for the use of "Frances Burney" for almost 30 years, to the best of my knowledge.

Though acclaimed in her own lifetime as a talented (and best-selling) author, Burney was belittled as a mere journal-writer for most of the 19th and 20th century. The tradition of calling her "little Fanny," is rooted in this belittling.

To say that France Burney d'Arblay "preferred" to be called "Fanny" is a ridiculous, unfounded assumption. The name "Fanny" (and "Fannikin") appears in her private correspondence and journals as a pet name from her very closest friends and family. She never published under the name Fanny -- most of her works appeared with "the author of Evelina, etc." in lieu of a name, she signed things with her given name or initials, and in periodical print she was referred to as Miss Burney, Burney, and later Madame d'Arblay.

To imply that we should call her Fanny Burney in an academic context means that her private name -- and her private activities, rather than her novels and other work -- are paramount. We don't do the same with James "Bozzie" Boswell, "Sam" Johnson, etc.

Lucy Tartan said...

Fair enough, Em (or should that be E.M.? Blogger strips capitals). I don't know whether we know each other - I'm guessing from the timestamp that you live in the other hemisphere - so I'll just say that in general I don't regard questions like this as things to go to the barricades over. I would rather be friends as much as possible and talk about matters we can agree about, like the goodness of F. Burney's writings. At the same time I have thought this general issue through, so my opinions are not unfounded (you are welcome to continue thinking of them as ridiculous, however.) Allow me to make the basis for my feelings more explicit.

I would have thought there was something to be said for a) maintaining a connection with the common reader tradition, which isn't as unmitigatedly demeaning as you make out here, and b) refusing the protocols of public sphere / professional / academic formality, which is as masculine as all get-out, and asserts, wrongly, that informality, domesticity and intimacy are incompatible with respect and high esteem. It is like the problem about whether men or women are stronger: men are better at lifting heavy things and women are better at things that require endurance. But the one that men do better is what tends to count as "strength." The two are linked. Academia doesn't own literature. If readers who've kept F. Burney in print and in circulation have done it because of her life writing more so than her fiction, then why should the name they know her by in that context be the one that's used in other situations?

I think in Mme d'Arblay's case it would be more generally useful to turn that energy toward rehabilitating putatively dimunitive naming habits.

The historically determined fact is that naming, esp with women novelists who published under pseudonyms or rubrics like "a Lady" or "the author of xxx", is always going to be somewhat arbitrary, much harder than with men. What's more patriarchally arrogant, deciding (by professional fiat?) not to use the name a woman chose to publish under - "Ellis Bell" - or responding (unwisely, no doubt) to the impression of close female friendship so many readers pick up from reading Austen, and so overusing her Christian name? This is without even touching on the subjectof women who change their names when they marry. Women's names are not the same as men's. I think that holding to one standard of naming for all writers is anachronistic (the NYT sometimes refers to Ms. Austen, which is plain silly) and it also collapses the important, positive differences between men's and women's writings.