“Captivity, Freedom, and the New World Convent: The Spiritual Autobiography of Marie de l’Incarnation Guyart.”
Caroline M. Woidat, State University of New York at Geneseo
This essay reads Guyart’s 1654 Relation as a counter-narrative to American Indian captivity and convent captivity tales. For Guyart, the convent and the stage of North America allow for new interpretations of religious and civic life–of what it means to be a Christian, to be a woman, and to be a useful member of society. These concerns link her not only to other early colonists, but also to nineteenth-century American women reformers who likewise translated religious ideals into feminist thought and practices. As a woman writer who explicitly defends the legitimacy of her personal visions, vocational work, and social influence, Guyart calls into question the recurring narrative in American literature that feminist notions of individual liberty are the product of Protestant ideas and the antithesis of Catholic beliefs. Guyart depicts the convent as a concrete image of freedom, but one that is paradoxical–in the same way that American democracy has been paradoxical–emerging from and despite hierarchical inequalities based upon gender, race, and sexuality.
“‘Married or Single?’: Catharine Maria Sedgwick on Old Maids, Wives, and Marriage.”
Maglina Lubovich, Drake University
In Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s day, perhaps not all that unlike our own, much was at stake in one’s response to the question “married or single?” Sedgwick scholars have long described her own position on marriage and spinsterhood in one of two ways–with ambivalence on the one hand and with reverence toward marriage on the other. This essay reconsiders these previous claims through close readings of work that span Sedgwick’s career: Hope Leslie (1827), “Old Maids” (1834), and Married or Single? (1857). I argue that in Sedgwick’s fiction there exists a deliberate dismantling of the very binary implied in “married or single.” I show that for Sedgwick, the problem is not with spinsterhood per se but with the way marriage pushes it to the margins and leaves the single woman feeling always “second best,” as Sedgwick herself described it. In bridging the binary between married and single, Sedgwick demonstrates how being an exceptional spinster makes one a better wife, or, if one chooses to remain single, a better woman
“‘I put my fingers around my throat and squeezed it, to know how it feels’: Antigallows Sentimentalism and E. D. E. N. Southworth’s The Hidden Hand.”
Paul Christian Jones, Ohio University
“Orientalism and Sympathy in Maria Susanna Cummins’s El Fureidîs.”
Steven Hamelman, Coastal Carolina University
Set in Lebanon, El Fureidîs (1860) is a unique nineteenth-century sentimental novel insofar as the antithetical discourses of sympathy and Orientalism, unfolding in counterpoint throughout, impede Cummins’s attempt to create a fictional “paradise” (the Arabic term for “El Fureidîs”). Sympathy, defined as compassion for the suffering of others, conflicts with Orientalism, defined on one hand as a condescending appreciation of eastern sumptuousness and freedom, and on the other hand as suspicion of eastern indolence and irrationality. Cummins’s Orientalism, whether “good” or “bad” in intention, undermines any sympathy being dramatized for a psychological, didactic, or aesthetic purpose. By interweaving two conflicting discourses, Cummins nullifies any genuinely good feelings sympathy is supposed to nurture. Furthermore, the novel’s sympathic texture masks the insidiousness of Cummins’s imperialist convictions–insidious because sympathy helps to justify the West’s co-opting of what passes for paradise only from an Orientalist perspective. The vale of human sympathy and natural sublimity in El Fureid�s is so rife with Western biases against Oriental culture that the novel ultimately, and ironically, confirms Western supremacy over anything the East, even a romanticized version of it, might offer as an alternative.
“Leaving the Good Mother: Frances E. W. Harper, Lydia Maria Child, and the Literary Politics of Reconstruction.”
Alice Rutkowski, State University of New York in Geneseo
“Renovating The American Woman’s Home: American Domesticity in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
Kristin J. Jacobson, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
While the popular ABC reality television program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition may initially strike us as thoroughly modern in its execution and technology, its rhetoric and ideology actually hold much in common with nineteenth-century domestic texts. This essay argues that Extreme Makeover is not only reminiscent of nineteenth-century didactic sentimentalism, but also of the domestic manuals of the time. Extreme Makeover’s revamped, twenty-first-century televised version of model domesticity shares many of the ideals and practices expressed by Catharine E. Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s popular 1869 treatise The American Woman’s Home, arguably the domestic manual of the nineteenth century. The essay discusses the ways both texts market and brand American domestic culture, their understanding of domestic economy, and the race, class, and gender implications embedded in their practices. These comparisons uncover uncanny connections between Extreme Makeover and The American Woman’s Home, revealing the roots of Extreme Makeover’s conservative vision of the American dream and the origins of its philanthropic hypermaterialism that keeps the dream alive. They also confirm we still can learn much about domestic economy from The American Woman’s Home.
“Introducing the Life and Work of Beatrix Farrand, Landscape Gardener and Writer (1872-1959).”
Carmen Pearson, Mount Royal College
“Mary Jane Holmes (1825-1907).”
Earl Yarington, Cheyney University
“Introduction to ‘Adam Floyd.'”
Lee Ann Elliott Westman, University of Texas, El Paso
Legacy Reprint: “Adam Floyd.”
Learning to Stand and Speak: Women, Education, and Public Life in America’s Republic by Mary Kelley and Claiming the Pen: Women and Intellectual Life in the Early American South by Catherine Kerrison
Sarah Robbins, Kennesaw State University
Viewing literacy as including women’s personal writing and reading, as well as their use of oral skills in social settings, Kelley and Kerrison each regard the complex culture of women’s pre- and post-Revolutionary literacy practices as a rich terrain for study. Whereas Kerrison mines individual book purchases, private journals, and correspondence to trace southern women’s personal reading activities and underscore the ways they differed from young men’s literacy practices, Kelley shows how formal educational institutions of the antebellum era-in all regions of the new nation-sought to set women’s learning on a par with men’s.
Perfecting Friendship: Politics and Affiliation in Early American Literature by Ivy Schweitzer
Robert K. Nelson, College of William & Mary
Excavating an ideal of friendship that held a much deeper political resonance prior to the twentieth century, Schweitzer offers thoughtful readings of four early American literary works. Friendship, she shows, simultaneously functioned as a model for egalitarian, lateral relations between elite men who shared the same sex and class, and as the justification for social and political hierarchy between those men and all others who differed from them in terms of sex, class, or race.
Gender and the Poetics of Reception in Poe’s Circle by Eliza Richards
Mary Louise Kete, University of Vermont
The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky: The Writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, edited by Robert Dale Parker
James Cox, University of Texas at Austin
Roman Fever: Domesticity and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century American Women’s Writing by Annamarie Formichella Elsden
Carey R. Voeller, University of Kansas
Domesticity and Nationalism in Nineteenth-Century American Women’s Writing furthers our understanding of nineteenth-century American, middle-class, white women and their negotiation of social and political identities. Discussing Letters from Abroad to Kindred at Home, Elsden argues that although sections of the text conform to other popular, escapist travel narratives written by men, Sedgwick also manipulates the genre in order to offer a realist “political agenda” that speaks to the disenfranchisement of women, the stereotypes of Italians, and the treatment of American Indians by the United States (12).
The Public Life of Privacy in Nineteenth-Century American Literature by Stacey Margolis
Corinne Kopcik, Georgia State University
Slavery on Trial: Law, Abolitionism, and Print Culture by Jeannine Marie DeLombard
Elizabeth Stockton, Southwestern University
Reading Women: Literary Figures and Cultural Icons from the Victorian Age to the Present, edited by Janet Badia and Jennifer Phegley
Holly M. Kent, Lehigh University
In the introduction to their insightful collection of essays about shifting notions of female readership and changing depictions of women readers in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain and America, Janet Badia and Jennifer Phegley note many contemporary female readers’ seemingly insatiable appetite for calendars, notecards, and journals adorned with images of reading women (particularly romanticized images of white, middle-class readers, depicted in luxurious surroundings). Sarah A. Wadsworth’s essay analyzes the complicated class politics of female readership in Louisa May Alcott’s “May Flowers,” and Elizabeth Fekete Trubey’s article on Uncle Tom’s Cabin reveals the wide gap between Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ambitions of inspiring female readers to engage in political activism and female readers’ insistence on viewing the novel not as a political call to arms, but as a source of private emotion and pleasure.
Making Home Work: Domesticity and Native American Assimilation in the American West, 1860-1919 by Jane E. Simonsen
Linda Frost, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Kindred Hands: Letters on Writing by British and American Women Authors, 1865-1935, edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black and Elizabeth MacLeod Wall
Theresa Strouth Gaul, Texas Christian University
Letters on Writing by British and American Women Authors, 1865-1935 contributes to the study of letters by recovering selected British and American women authors’ epistles that take as their subjects facets of the women’s writing lives: reading and interpretive practices, writing, authorship, publication, the literary marketplace, and relationships with editors, readers, reviewers, and other authors. The editors’ efforts to situate the selected writings in a transatlantic context is laudable, though very few of the correspondences contained within the volume either traverse the Atlantic (Stowe’s and Phelps’s correspondence with George Eliot is a notable exception) or overtly participate in conversations of transatlantic import (or at least the supporting scholarly material does not trace out transatlantic resonances for readers).
“The Woman’s Building Library of the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893,” edited by Sarah Wadsworth
Bettina Manzo, College of William and Mary
The Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, with its incongruous mix of classical architecture, farm machinery, torpedo ships, ragtime, and carnival rides, attracted over twenty-seven million visitors. The possibilities explored in this issue of Libraries & Culture are themes of traditional interest to scholars of women’s studies and print culture: the participation of women in the public sphere via writing and publication, and the synergistic coming together of women writers, publishers, and readers with nineteenth-century advances in the production and distribution of printed materials to reflect and/or shape cultural values.
Leslie M. Hammer, University of California, San Diego