Robert Louis Stevenson
Nineteenth-Century French Literature
an online talk by Dr. Kate Ashley

Recorded on Saturday, February 11, 2023
(See note below re the Q&A section of the talk)

On February 11, fellow board member, Dr. Kate Ashley (Acadia University), gave this talk based on her latest book: Robert Louis Stevenson and Nineteenth-Century French Literature: Literary Relations at the Fin de Siècle (EUP, 2022). Her presentation examines French literature from Stevenson's perspective and Stevenson from a French perspective, within the context of debates surrounding the development of the novel at the fin de siècle. It considers Stevenson as both a reader and a writer of French in order to show how French literature contributes to his theory and practice of fiction. It also considers how nineteenth-century French writers and critics approached Stevenson, in order to clarify how, where, and why his earliest French readers translated, disseminated and interpreted his books. In this way, we will see how debates taking place in France not only contributed to the evolution of Stevenson's art, but also how Stevenson became a model of artistic innovation in France.

Dr. Ashley teaches French, English and Translation at Acadia University (Nova Scotia, Canada). Her research deals with nineteenth-century French literary history and Franco-British literary relations, and she has also published on Scottish literature in translation. She is the author of Edmond de Goncourt and the Novel (Rodopi, 2005), editor of Prix Goncourt, 1903-2003: essais critiques (Peter Lang, 2004), and co-editor of Carver Across the Curriculum (Cambridge Scholars, 2011).

The event was hosted by David Hunter, President, Scottish Studies Foundation.

Comments and questions received via the "Chat" option during the talk:

00:45:47 Janice: You mentioned "A Humble Remonstrance" as a response to an essay by Henry James. Could you say a little more about these essays and about James' and Stevenson's stances?

00:47:20 Jonathon Baker: Kate, would you like to elaborate on RLS and Dumas? They always struck me as literary brethren.

00:48:25 Mark Sanderson: Stevenson, like French writers, uses chiasmus in his writings, but he refers to it as a Hebrew (or biblical) literary device. Do you see much French influence on his use of chiasmus?

00:47:04 wanapier: Dr Ashley Thank you for your informative presentation. Well delivered and captivating.

00:52:49 Kate Ashley:

00:58:00 This may seem tangential, but I was interested in Stevenson's enthusiasm for Dostoievski and since the first English translation of Dostoievski didn't appear until 1910 I wondered in what language he read him. It appears it was in French.

00:59:02 Leslie Parada: Very interesting! If that is true about his father building lighthouses I would be grateful to know whether he built the lighthouse in Howth. My great grandfather was the harbour master.

01:03:06 Rob Lockhart: The dance is called. "Modestine's Romp" see

01:03:48 Kate Ashley:

01:04:19 Kate Ashley:

01:07:28 Elaine Parks: I believe more biographies have been written on Stevenson than any other author.

01:08:14 Trish MacNeil: There is also the Treasure Island Jig apparently. See:

01:08:56 Janice: Thank you very much, Kate.

01:08:58 Trish MacNeil: Thank you, very interesting and enjoyable!

01:09:00 Gavin Duffy: Thank you very much, I enjoyed the talk.

01:09:02 Leslie Parada: Thank you so much David for organizing these talks and to Kate for a wonderful talk. I have Great Scots!

01:09:30 Carolyn D: Thank you!