AN INTERVIEW WITH JACQUELINE TAVERNIER-COURBIN, Ph.D.
Professor of English
Please trace the origin of your interest in Jack London.
In the early 1970's I became interested in his work on the North American natives in his stories of the north. As a youngster, I had of course read Call of the Wild and White Fang in translation.
In higher education American literature studies, does London have a high "standing"?
In teaching London's works, what do you emphasize and hope your students understand?
His timelessness, Jungian appeal of many of his stories and insight, poetic style, humor, naturalistic characteristics, etc.
Jack London's real-life world, from the turn of the century to the First World War, seems "dated" to young readers who know nothing of the Klondike or socialism. What is there in his work to appeal to a new generation of readers?
Actually, a book like the Iron Heel, despite all its flaws, is frighteningly contemporary. I taught a graduate course on London a few years ago, and the students were stunned. Less successful or some of the reasons we know, its farsightedness is still on a par with Huxley's and Orwell's.
I think they should be made aware of the fact that the human soul and mind has not changed a bit. Only the gadgets have.
Are there untapped areas of London scholarship? Please give some examples of research that needs to be done.
I'll pass on that one for now. Yes, of course, they are huge areas that need to be worked on, and it would be a good idea for scholars to get back to the actual texts (rather than theory) which have an awful lot to teach us.
What are your own current areas of London research?
I am working on a biography of the women in his life — but very different from Clarice Stasz's.