Tonight I am filled with rage. I am attempting to find an article written by two women which I believe does much to debate the role of Elizabeth Siddal within Pre-Raphaelite literature, specifically aimed at tackling ‘Woman as Sign in Pre-Raphaelite Literature: A Study of the Representation of Elizabeth Sidall’.

You may well note from this one brief paragraph what my reasons are in pursuing this article. The joint authors, Cherry and Pollock, insist upon spelling Elizabeth Siddal’s surname with the double L, whereas others, including myself, use a single L. I stick to Siddal mostly because Elizabeth adopted this spelling, we know she signed at least one letter using this spelling.[1] I accept this signature as some sort of verification of that spelling. Obviously we can argue either way but as far as I am concerned, Siddal had her own mind and was more than able to make her own decisions regarding her own name. I also think it is hugely disrespectful to disregard her own attempts to modify her own persona.

I am trying to find this article so that I can verify Cherry or Pollock’s reasons for ignoring Siddal’s own hand, but I am currently unable to. Having previously heard much about the 1984 article and knowing something of each author’s esteemed career, I am certain the reasons for opting for the dual L will be both deeply considered and highly intelligent. That being said, until I have read the article, I will continue spelling it as I believe Elizabeth Siddal would have wished me too. I will update this rant when a) I have read the article which I will receive at some point soon hopefully and b) I am less riled.

The predominant reasons for my rage are based around the fact that I cannot easily find or access the article. I can see a brief teaser here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8365.1984.tb00141.x/abstract which only serves to irritate me further.

Should this elitism should be expected? Perhaps it should. Perhaps I do expect it but I do not agree with it. What peeves / amuses / enrages me is that an article which has been jointly written by two academics with an interest in feminism (if not in fact feminists themselves) about a woman whose image was appropriated by at least one male artist, until she was coerced or so consumed by their will that she altered her name, is invisible to the majority of women![2]

I am a single mum working two jobs and attempting to do a self-funded PhD. Today I had to leave the office to collect my son, because his school said he was ill. His father was at work and therefore couldn’t pick him up. Yes, his full time job is more important than one of my part time jobs. (I have witnessed this often enough to know this is not an experience limited to just my situation). I am now further behind on that day job, not to mention behind on my research, and the many other things and responsibilities I should have been doing / achieving in and around my day today. I have to work at my research mostly at night because of my jobs and because of my son. I can’t just pop to the library as it is a forty minute drive, and even if I could I would need a babysitter. Both cost money. Nor can I pop to London, because that also costs money and also requires babysitters. So wasting precious research time being unable to access a feminist article causes me rage.

There is an appallingly low level of readership for every published academic article. I forget now, but it is something like only 5 or 9 people will ever read an article a poor scholar has poured blood and sweat into writing. Many articles are behind locked doors and academic walls, hidden in their dusty ivory towers. Don’t even get me started on the price of The Burlington!

Why is knowledge not democratic? Why is it that the mother’s job is not as important as the father’s? Why aren’t more female academics helping women with children achieve the education they deserve? Wasn’t it William Morris who said I do not want art for a few; any more than education for a few………….

[1] William Allingham, [1856], Troxell Collection, Princeton University Library

[2] Siddal changed her name at Rossetti’s insistence / encouragement if I remember rightly. Obviously I am relying on memory of conversations past and so I cannot verify this rant until I get hold of the article.

Advertisements