A Unique Return to the Classroom by Liese Sherwood-Fabre #somethingdifferent #sherlockholmesfans #essays

This week I am doing something a bit different. Though I read and write predominately in the romance genre, I consider myself a diverse reader and like things out of the box sometimes. I thought you guys might too. This weeks guest is here to tell us about an essay about female characters in the original Sherlock Holmes stories and I found this interesting. I hope you do too. Let’s welcome Liese Sherwood-Fabre.

In the fall of 2017, I answered a call for essays on the female characters in the original Sherlock Holmes stories (referred to as “the Canon”). I am working on a mystery series involving an adolescent Sherlock Holmes and his rather eccentric family, and this effort seemed right up my alley, given all the research I’d been doing. Writing about such a famous character required knowledge of both him and Victorian England. Adding a highly intelligent mother also meant understanding the role of women at the time as well.

All the essays for this call were to focus on the characters’ “agency.” (It’s even in the sub-title:Villains, Victims, and Violets: Agency and Feminism in the Original Sherlock Holmes Canon.) Despite having a PhD in Sociology, I had to look up that term. I quickly learned that while this concept had been around for a while in economics, it had entered the field of sociology after I left graduate school and academia in general. One of the definitive works on agency appeared in 1998—well over ten years after my graduation. “Agency” refers to a person’s freedom to choose and act independently (as in someone being a “free agent). All the essays were to consider how Victorian society gave or limited the female characters’ agency and how that affected their decisions and actions. In the end, I submitted two essays for the collection. One on Sarah Cushing, one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s most devious of villains, and another on scandal as a motivator in a number of the stories.

BrownWalker Press, which publishes academic works, will be releasing the book in September and will market it to, among other audiences, university-level women’s studies and literature classes. I’m excited to think college students will be reading about how Victorian norms affected a woman’s ability to control her situation. In the case of Sarah Cushing, for example, her manipulations led to some quite dreadful consequences, and the social control a fear of scandal produced made some characters commit crimes they might never contemplate otherwise.

I am returning to school twice for this effort: once in my research to update my Sociological training, and second in book form.

What a great way to start the school year!

Villains, Victims, and Violets: Agency and Feminism in the Original Sherlock Holmes Canon

Edited by Resa Haile and Tamara R. Bower

BrownWalker Press

September 15, 2019

Cover Design by Ivan Popov

Blurb:

Villains, Victims, and Violets pulls back the curtain on the private spaces of the women in the original Sherlock Holmes tales, revealing their “proper”—and not so proper—place in a man’s world at the dusk of the 19th century. Twenty-nine authors examine Holmes’ world through the lives of the women who inhabited it: the villains driven astray; the victims he rescued; and the strong, pivotal Violets from his most unforgettable cases.  Available at: BrownWalker Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

Excerpt from: “Still Waters Run Deviant: The Scheming Librarian”

A Tale of Three Sisters
 
Chris Vogler (The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers) notes, “even the villain is the hero of their own story,” and in the case of “The Adventure of the Cardboard Box,” point of view means everything. The story centers on a mystery surrounding three sisters—described by Jim Browner, the husband of the youngest, as “a good woman …a devil and … an angel.” In his confession, he states that Sarah, the middle “devil” sister, manipulated him into murdering his wife and her lover. Sarah, however, would have quite a different slant on events had Holmes been able to interview her. Unfortunately, she never shares her side of the story, leaving the motivation behind her actions to our speculation and for Holmes to lament “[what] object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear . . . It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance.” With only one side of the story presented, the complete scenario must rely on Browner’s confession, reports by others, and the social context of gender roles at the end of the century.

A Murder Wrapped in a Mystery 

Holmes is called in on the case after a woman, Susan Cushing, receives a box containing two severed ears, nestled in salt. After examining the box and its contents, Sherlock questions Miss Cushing about the women he sees in a photograph on the mantle in her sitting room. She shares she has two younger sisters: Mary, the youngest, is married to a sailor named Jim Browner, and Sarah is the middle one.
 
Each woman has her own temperament. By her own account as well as Lestrade’s, Susan lives a quiet, respectable lifestyle. In his account, Browner will describe his wife as “a good woman,” and a “lamb.” Both Susan and Browner agree Sarah is a “meddler,” her sister adding the woman has a temper and is “hard to please.” Mary and Sarah had been best friends—until recently.
 
Holmes surreptitiously compares the ear in the box to the shape of Susan’s ear and determines it belongs to one of the two other sisters. In an effort to determine which sister, he visits Sarah, but is blocked by the woman’s doctor. She has been struck with brain fever, leaving Mary as the only possible victim. The reason she was murdered, however, must be provided by her assassin.
 
After studying the wrapping around the package containing the ears, Sherlock concludes the sender was a sailor. Mary’s husband serves on the ship May Day, and Holmes provides Lestrade with the time and place of the boat’s next port of call. When the police arrest him, Browner confesses to killing both Mary and her previously unidentified lover, but he lays the blame for his actions squarely on Sarah’s shoulders. his perspective, Sarah is the catalyst behind this tragedy. Without her, the two deaths would never occur.

Meet Liese;

Liese Sherwood-Fabre, a native Texas, knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ in the second grade for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD from Indiana University, she joined the federal government and had the opportunity to work and live internationally for more than fifteen years—in Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Returning to the states, she seriously pursued her writing career and has published several pieces. Her debut novel Saving Hope, a thriller set in Russia was based, in part, from her observations while in that country. She then turned to a childhood interest in Sherlock Holmes and researched Victorian England for an as-yet unpublished series on Sherlock growing up in a rather unusually gifted family. The research led her to share essays with other Sherlockians across the world and to become active in the local Dallas society, the Crew of the Barque Lone Star. The release of her essays followed the release of her short story, “The Case of the Tainted Blood” in an anthology of alternate universe Sherlockian tales, Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures” by Mocha Memoirs Press. Most recently, her essay on the Villainesses of the Sherlock Holmes stories appeared in the summer issue of The Baker Street Journal.

Liese Sherwood-Fabre, a native Texas, knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ in the second grade for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD from Indiana University, she joined the federal government and had the opportunity to work and live internationally for more than fifteen years—in Africa, Latin America, and Russia. Returning to the states, she seriously pursued her writing career and has published several pieces. Her debut novel Saving Hope, a thriller set in Russia was based, in part, from her observations while in that country. She then turned to a childhood interest in Sherlock Holmes, and researched Victorian England for an as-yet unpublished series on Sherlock growing up in a rather unusually gifted family. The research led her to share essays with other Sherlockians across the world and to become active in the local Dallas society, the Crew of the Barque Lone Star. The release of her essays followed the release of her short story, “The Case of the Tainted Blood” in an anthology of alternate universe Sherlockian tales, Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures” by Mocha Memoirs Press. Most recently, her essay on the Villainesses of the Sherlock Holmes stories appeared in the summer issue of The Baker Street Journal.

Find her at:

Website

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Amazon

Do you like essays? What is a topic of interest for you?

8 thoughts on “A Unique Return to the Classroom by Liese Sherwood-Fabre #somethingdifferent #sherlockholmesfans #essays

  1. This is a great interview/essay! So, so glad you worked with us on Villains, Victims, and Violets. Your writing is thoughtful and enlightening.

    I can’t wait to read your stories about the young Sherlock Holmes.

    You’re amazing!

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