Dean de la Motte
A native of California’s San Joaquin Valley, Dean de la Motte has degrees in comparative literature from the University of California, Santa Barbara and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; he studied French and German at the Université de Poitiers (France) and the Deutsche Schule of Middlebury College (Vermont), respectively. The co-editor of Making the News: Modernity and the Mass Press in Nineteenth-Century France (with Jeannene Przyblyski) and Approaches to Teaching Stendhal’s The Red and the Black (with Stirling Haig), he has published a wide range of articles on nineteenth-century French literature and culture and numerous essays on the teaching of literature.
From 2000 to 2014 he worked as a chief academic officer; a ‘recovering administrator’, he now teaches courses in French and English, including an annual seminar entitled Scribblemania: The Brontës and the Passion of Writing. In the fall of 2021, he was a visiting scholar in Lyon, France. The father of two grown children, de la Motte lives and works in Newport, Rhode Island, and spends most summers in France. His first novel, Oblivion: The Lost Diaries of Branwell Brontë, was published by Valley Press in July 2022.
Oblivion: The Lost Diaries of Branwell Brontë is both a compelling reconstruction of the life of the famous literary sisters’ often-misunderstood brother and a dramatic, sweeping portrayal of a century in rapid transition to modernity. It is a meticulous, loving tribute to the language, structure and themes of the Brontës’ own works, as de la Motte at times weaves the very words of their correspondence, novels and poems seamlessly into his lively narrative.
Oblivion traces Branwell’s meandering journey across the north of England, from the Fells of the Lake District to the ocean cliffs of Scarborough, from the smoky streets of industrial Halifax to the windswept moors above Haworth, encountering such notables as Hartley Coleridge and Franz Liszt. Through him we meet poets, sculptors, booksellers, prostitutes, publicans, railway workers, farmers, manufacturers and clergymen; through his experiences we contemplate the ineffable but fleeting ecstasy of sex, the existence of God, the effects of drugs and alcohol and the nature of addiction itself, the desire for fame, and the bitter resentment of artists and intellectuals who feel unappreciated by an increasingly materialistic, mechanised society.
This sprawling story is a moving, thought-provoking page-turner that seeks not only to understand the roots of Branwell Brontë’s tragic end but also to unearth the striking similarities of character between him and his now-famous sisters.
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