FOLLOW-UP: “Robert Louis Stevenson: New Perspectives” Conference

robert_louis_stevenson_sitting_in_chairFrom July 5-8, we participated in the international “Robert Louis Stevenson: New Perspectives” conference at Edinburgh Napier University in Scotland. This four-day conference was fantastic, as we were able to meet and learn from Stevenson scholars from around the world. Our paper focused on chiasmus in Stevenson’s essays and included a 49-page collection of parallelisms and chiasms we have so far identified.

Currently, we are continuing our research and preparing our paper for inclusion in a forthcoming conference edition of the Journal of Stevenson Studies. We are very excited to share our findings with Stevenson scholars and hope our effort will contribute to a better understanding of his essays and a fuller appreciation of his skill as a writer. Our view is that Robert Louis Stevenson belongs in the pantheon of the greatest writers in the English language.

Although he doesn’t use the term “chiasmus,” Stevenson describes his methodology in his essay, “On Some Technical Elements of Style in Literature” (Contemporary Review, April 1885; Essays in the Art of Writing, 1905). Below are a few examples of parallelisms and chiasms from his essays:

1. “An Autumn Effect” (The Porfolio, 1875)

A: For it is rather in nature
B: that we see resemblance to art,
B: than in art
A: to nature;

2. “Talk and Talkers (a Sequel)” (Cornhill Magazine, 1882; Memories and Portraits, 1887)

A: Where youth agrees with age, not where they differ,
B: wisdom lies;
A: and it is when the young disciple finds his heart to beat in tune with his grey-bearded teacher’s
B: that a lesson may be learned.

3. “On Some Technical Elements of Style in Literature” (Contemporary Review, 1885; Essays in the Art of Writing, 1905)

A: Pattern
B: and argument live in each other;
B: and it is by the brevity, clearness, charm, or emphasis of the second,
A: that we judge the strength and fitness of the first.

4. “Lay Morals” (1896)

A: Now the problem to the poor
B: is one of necessity;
C: to earn wherewithal to live, they must find remunerative labour.
A: But the problem to the rich
B: is one of honour;
C: having the wherewithal they must find serviceable labour.
A: Each has to earn his daily bread:
B: the one, because he has not yet got it to eat;
B: the other who has already eaten it,
A: because he has not yet earned it.

Over the next few months, we will update and expand upon our 49-page collection of parallelisms and chiasms from Stevenson’s essays. In the meantime, feel free to download a copy for personal review. Perhaps, it will inspire you to study his essays in full!

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