Associate Professor of English Nicola Minott-Ahl explored the cultural and societal impact of Alexandre Dumas’ most famous work, The Three Musketeers, in a lecture at Syracuse University on Sept. 27. Minott-Ahl’s presentation preceded the university’s stage performance of the novel.
“I’ve always been drawn to Alexandre Dumas because his interest in history led him to explore and present it as a deliberately entertaining narrative imbued with all the wonder, the adventure, and the sheer complexity of it all,” says Minott-Ahl, who is currently working on a book-length study titled “The Architectural Novel: How William Ainsworth, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas Constructed the National Identities of 19th Century England and France.”
In Minott-Ahl’s view, Dumas’ historical fiction resonated with French audiences to the point of influencing the public’s historical and political opinions.
“In the 19th century, in the wake of revolutions and other socio-political upheavals, such writers were engaged in deciding which aspects of the past to preserve and give to their posterity. In a period of modernization they made the case for the preservation and collective ownership of the relics of the distant past,” Minott-Ahl explains. “They could construct a national identity that entailed more than revolution and regicide and a future in which stability might not be purchased at the price of the abandonment of lofty ideals.”
A member of the HWS community since 2004, Minott-Ahl has presented papers at conferences around the world, including the Literary London Conference at the College of St. Mary in London, the Nineteenth Century Conference at the University of Leuven in Belgium, and the Conference of South Central MLA in Houston, Texas. She has also published on the works of Jane Austen, Victor Hugo and William Harrison Ainsworth. Prior to joining the Colleges, she was a lecturer at Ithaca College and a teaching assistant at Cornell University. At HWS, Minott-Ahl teaches courses including “Victorian Poets,” “Gothic Novel,” “Jane Austen in Film” and “Dickens and His World.” She holds her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the City University of New York.
Minott-Ahl also spoke at the Seymour Library in Auburn, N.Y. on Sept. 30. Her lecture, “Fashioning Austen’s World: Clothing in the Regency Period,” was part of the library’s 200 Years Since Austen series.