“Let no man know”: Negotiating the Gendered Discourse of Affliction in Anne Bradstreet’s “Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning of Our House, July 1666”
Allison Giffen, Western Washington University
This essay offers a careful study of one of Anne Bradstreet’s later, domestic poems, “Here Follows Some Verses Upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th, 1666,” to reveal the interesting negotiations Bradstreet performs when engaging the gendered emblems and metaphors of the religious discourse of affliction, specifically the emblem of Lot’s wife, an important biblical type for stalled pilgrimage. With her body straining forward in her journey toward a spiritually sanctioned city, and her head twisted away, turning back toward her home, Lot’s wife offers Bradstreet a particularly apt figure of struggle, not merely between faith and feeling, but with the traditionally gendered contours of figuration itself. This essay explores how Bradstreet lends this emblem an interiority that undermines its function as emblem, thus diminishing the force of its warning against inappropriate grief. The poem further heightens this effect by suggest9ing that, for women, the home is a site of spiritual significance, thus troubling the binary between the spiritual and the physical and subtly calling into question whether to mourn for one’s home is entirely appropriate. Indeed, Bradstreet’s reliance on an elegiac tripartite structure of loss, grief, and acceptance subtly answers that question, by opening up a (brief) space for grief. This essay argues that Bradstreet’s treatment of Lot’s wife tell us less about the nature of her religious devotion and more about the challenges she encounters when engaging the gendered spiritual discourse of her day.
“How I Look”: Fanny Fern and the Strategy of Pseudonymity
Robert Gunn, University of Texas at El Paso
This essay explores Fanny Fern’s uses of literary pseudonymity to examine the relationship of authorship to gender, privacy, print, and commodification in texts that span her career as a newspaper columnist and novelist. Presenting an evasive writerly identity that crosses boundaries of public, private, gender, and genre, the pseudonym “Fann Fern” offers an ever-shifting target to those who would condemn the subversive posture of her work. As enacted in the subtle word play of her late-career column for the New York Ledger, “How I Look” (1872), this mutable literary persona is presented as a strategic vehicle for seeing without being seen in public locations. Gunn argues that “How I Look” exemplifies Fern’s career-long use of the secretive qualities of pseudonymity as a powerful site of readerly identification. As examples from her newspaper columns and the novel Ruth Hall demonstrate, Fern textually performs her anonymous celebrity in carefully crafted gestures of veiling and unveiling that successfully navigate the dangers of publicity. This practice links the forms of empowerment Fern experiences as a writer in the literary marketplace to strategies of resistance for her women readers within the domestic confines of the bourgeois household.
“What did you mean?”: Marriage in E.D.E.N. Southworth’s Novels
Cindy Weinstein, California Institute of Technology
Using as a starting point the recurring question E.D.E.N. Southworth’s characters ask each other, “What did you mean?,” Cindy Weinstein considers the state of language in Southworth’s novels. The vexed status of written and verbal language is particularly apparent in the vows, promises, and pledges made between characters as they contemplate and then speak the marriage vow. These vows, promises, and pledges have consequences for a woman. When she says “I do,” she becomes, in the eyes of the law, a “feme couverte,” losing not just her name, but her property. Because the validity of the marriage vow could not be any more important, many of Southworth’s female characters cling to their marriage certificates. One, in fact, carries hers with her at all times, for the document guarantees what the spoken word should but does not always. Using J.L. Austin’s paradigm of performative language, Weinstein elucidates how Southworth’s heroines discover that “I do” sometimes fails to signify a valid promise. There may be a prior marriage; the ceremony may be a set-up. Southworth creates a space in which female protagonists’ pledges and promises can be broken, revisited, and changed before uttering those life-changing words. This close reading of Southworth’s novels, ranging from the 1860s to the 1890s, also demonstrates how content and focus on utterance in her works link her to canonical writers of the American Renaissance.
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Trixy, and the Vivisection Question
Lori Duin Kelly, Carroll University
Kelly examines Elizabeth Stuart Phelps’s Trixy (1904), a novel organized around the topic of vivisection, which contributed to the body of literature that detailed the suffering inflicted on animals in the name of medical research. It represented Phelps’s attempt to revitalize the debate between medical researchers and their opponents by focusing on the impact that exposure to vivisection had on its practitioners. To a story involving the abduction, incarceration, and ultimate escape of the title character of the novel, Phelps added a second narrative that explored the effect that vivisection has on a physician. His initial revulsion from the practice as a young medical student ultimately transforms into an insatiable use of animals to fuel an ambitious research agenda. By arguing that the practice of vivisection in physician training desensitized them, Phelps returned to a familiar theme in both her private life and in her career—the nature of the patient/physician relationship. Although the book went into a second edition, Phelps was unable to gain traction for the antivivisectionist cause. Because of a successful effort by provivisectionist physicians to dominate the debate, the public had come to accept the importance of animal experiments to the training of physicians and viewed the antivivisectionists as overly concerned with animal rights and indifferent to human suffering. Ultimately, this pathologizing of the antivisectionists contributed to a perception of them as mentally unstable individuals who suffered from a clinically diagnosable condition—the zoophyl psychosis.
Linguistic Regionalism and the Emergence of Chinese American Literature in Sui Sin Far’s “Mrs. Spring Fragrance“
Marjorie Pryse, State University of New York
Beginning by suggesting that Sui Sin Far/Edith Maude Eaton (1865-1914) readily fits none of the categories recent critics have established within Chinese American literature, this essay situates her as a regionalist writer whose work demonstrates her struggle against mainstream representations of the Chinese in the late-nineteenth-century American press and who achieves artistic form and a strategy for helping her readers view the Chinese differently through her use of the English language in Mrs. Spring Fragrance. Pryse contextualizes Sui Sin Far’s predominantly simple and compound (not complex or “left-branching”) sentence structure in dialect writing by American regionalist writers, arguing that she thereby discovers in the structure of English itself how to represent the Chinese experience in America for her white readers. She refashions English to reflect that experience and to demonstrate her immigrant characters’ consciousness of the ways the English language encodes a dominance that reflects U.S. politics of the period. The essay contrasts Sui Sin Far’s regionalism with “local color” representations of the Chinese in the writings of Bret Harte and offers a linguistic reading of several stories in Mrs. Spring Fragrance—”Mrs. Spring Fragrance,” “The Inferior Woman,” “In the Land of the Free,” “The Wisdom of the New,” and “Its Wavering Image.”
“Other People’s Clothes”: Homosexuality, Consumer Culture, and Affective Reading in Edith Wharton’s Summer
Meredith Goldsmith, Ursinus College
This article takes its starting point from the occlusion of relations between women in both classic feminist readings of Wharton’s Summer (1917) and the recent racial analyses of Wharton’s works. Through a reading of the affective dimensions of Charity Royall’s relations with other women—some minor characters, some glimpsed on the street, and some not even named—this essay restores the nuanced intraclass politics of the homosocial gaze in Wharton’s novella. Goldsmith argues that consumer culture, especially the intimate culture of hand-tailoring, generates homosocial tensions and provides a forum for their enactment. Reading the figure of Royall’s friend, seamstress Ally Hawes—a minor, yet pivotal character who has yet to receive critical attention—through recent work on queer character types in postbellum American literature, this essay situates Summer in relation to nineteenth-century female regionalists, against whom Wharton mounted a vigorous defense elsewhere in her writing. As have other scholars, Goldsmith argues that Wharton protested too much about her distance from these authors but sees Wharton’s efforts to alienate herself from female regionalists as an expression of anxiety about the homosocial/homoerotic divide. Reading the vexed homosocial relations in this novel points the way toward new analysis of conflicts between women in many other works by Wharton, opening her texts to both queer and affective readings.
From the Archives
“Sojourners in the Archive”: Reflections on the Art of Recovery Work
Theresa Strouth Gaul, Texas Christian University
Death-Defying Testimony: Women’s Private Lives and the Politics of Public Documents
Lois Brown, Mount Holyoke College
Lois Brown revisits the process of writing Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins: Black Daughter of the Revolution in order to examine archival work on nineteenth-century African American women. Brown explores the silences of archives regarding women of color and the need for rigorous research to unearth these lost voices, including those found in private writing and biography. Anecdotes about searching for information about Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins illuminate how difficult but rewarding such searches can be, especially when they include examinations of private writing, agency, death, performativity, and identity.
Hanging Out: A Research Methodology
Jeanne Pfaelzer, University of Delaware
Jean Pfaelzer discusses her work as the curator of the cyber-exhibit “Chinese American Women: A History of Resilience and Resistance” for the National Women’s History Museum, which provides information on the first one hundred years of Chinese women’s history in the United States. Drawing on her book Driven Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans, Pfaelzer chronicles her archival work on representations of Chinese American women in such diverse sources as US legislative acts, newspaper accounts, and advertisements. She describes her search for sources that would enable Chinese American women to represent themselves. Beyond discussing the archive, Pfaelzer considers Chinese immigration, visual representation, and burlesque through close readings of texts and photographs.
Blanche Willis Howard (1847-1898)
Melanie S. Gustafson, University of Vermont
Melanie Gustafson profiles the life and works of Blanche Willis Howard, an American writer from Maine who sought solitude travelling through Europe. In her writings, Howard depicted the lives of independent single women who traveled abroad. Her works include One Summer (1875); a travelogue of compiled letters she wrote for the Boston Transcript, titled One Year Abroad (1877);Aunt Serena (1881); A Fellow and His Wife (1892); and The Garden of Eden (published posthumously in 1900).
Grace Gallatin Thompson Seton (1872-1959)
Lucinda H. MacKethan, North Carolina State University
Grace Seton of California was a travel writer and the president of the Connecticut Women’s Suffrage Association. According to Lucinda H. MacKethan, Seton began her career designing covers and borders for her own books and those of her husband, Ernest Thompson Seton—best-selling author, scientist, and co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America. Grace Seton promoted a daredevil image as she travelled in the American West, Europe, Paraguay, and Asia. Her works include A Woman Tenderfoot (1900), Nimrod’s Wife (1907), A Woman Tenderfoot in Egypt (1923), Chinese Lanterns (1924), Yes, Lady Saheb: A Woman’s Adventuring with Mysterious India (1925), and Log of the “Look-See” (1932).
The Many Faces of Margaret Fuller
Jeffrey Steele, University of Wisconsin Madison
Seeing Red: Anger, Sentimentality, and American Indians by Cari M. Carpenter and Moving Encounters: Sympathy and the Indian Question in Antebellum Literature by Laura Mielke
Renee Bergland, Simmons College
The Correspondence of Edith Wharton and Macmillan, 1901-1930 edited by Shafquat Towheed and Edith Wharton and the Conversations of Literary Modernism by Jennifer Haytock
Sarah Way Sherman, University of New Hampshire
Freedom’s Empire: Race and the Rise of the Novel in Atlantic Modernity, 1640-1940 by Laura Doyle
Elizabeth Hewitt, The Ohio State University, Columbus
Teaching Nineteenth-Century American Poetry edited by Paula Bernat Bennett, Karen Kilcup, and Philip Schweighauser
Faith Barrett, Lawrence University
Scare Tactics: Supernatural Fiction by American Women Writers by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock
Dorri Beam, University of California, Berkeley
Emily Dickinson’s Correspondences: A Born-Digital Textual Inquiry edited by Martha Nell Smith and Lara Vetter, with Ellen Louise Hart as consulting editor
Robin Peel, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom
The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers edited by Jean Fagan Yellin
Jennifer Putzi, College of William & Mary
“They Say”: Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race by James West Davidson
Jill Bergman, University of Montana
The Cambridge Companion to Kate Chopin edited by Janet Beer
Donna Decker, Franklin Pierce University
New American Women Dramatists by Sherry D. Engle
Brenda Murphy, University of Connecticut
African, Native, and Jewish American Literature and the Reshaping of Modernism by Alice A. Kent
Rachel Leah Jablon, University of Maryland
Modernism and Mildred Walker by Carmen Pearson
Victoria Lamont, University of Waterloo
On the Divide: The Many Lives of Willa Cather by David Porter
Michael Schueth, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson edited by Siobhan Senier
Sabrina Starnaman, University of Texas, Dallas
Two Men by Elizabeth Stoddard edited by Jennifer Putzi
Bridgette Copeland, Texas Christian University
Last Updated: 03/29/2013 19:20 PDT