Touching Liberty, Transforming Academe: Cross-Racial Collaborations and Challenges in Feminist Literary Studies
~Tributes to Frances Smith Foster, Recipient of the SSAWW’s Karen Dandurand Lifetime Achievement Medal, 2012
Joycelyn Moody, Elizabeth Cali, Rachel Johnston, Sarah Ruffing Robbins, Elizabeth Engelhardt, Shannon Cardinal, and Jennifer S. Tuttle
~“White Suffragist Dis/Entitlement: The Revolution and the Rhetoric of Racism”
This essay rehistoricizes the racism of the nineteenth-century US woman suffrage movement through readings of Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s feminist newspaper, The Revolution. Despite the fame of its founder, this periodical has been given little focused critical attention; when the newspaper is cited, it is primarily used as historical evidence for Stanton’s racism, rather than as a text worth exploring in its own right. Indeed, feminist historiography has focused extensively in recent years on the racism of white woman suffragists like Stanton who, disillusioned by their disenfranchisement, opposed the Fifteenth Amendment in 1869. These studies have recovered a significant part of feminism’s past, but they have not explored how this racism functioned, and to what ends. “White Suffragist Dis/Entitlement” draws from The Revolution to build on this work by calling attention to the specific ways that white suffragists deployed racialized rhetorics for particular purposes, exploiting the black female figure to perform a number of strategic functions in negotiating their ambivalent and shifting positions in relation to the racist and patriarchal postwar political system of the nineteenth century. It argues that close attention to this text yields an understanding of how white suffragists negotiated a web of conflicting inheritance by using black women’s racial and class differences to manage white women’s gender difference. More broadly, it suggests that taking white suffragist racism as a starting point, rather than a conclusion, opens up unexplored critical terrain that warrants attention from scholars of American literature.
~“Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun and the City’s Transformative Potential”
“Jessie Fauset’s Plum Bun and the City’s Transformative Potential” argues that Jessie Fauset’sPlum Bun sheds light on the constitutive relationship among urban existence, emancipation, race, and gender. On the one hand, Fauset offers a relatively optimistic vision of the metropolis, describing it as a centripetal and liberating force. On the other hand, Fauset’s vision of the city is nuanced and critical, since it is informed not only by a gender and class perspective but also by a racial one. Indeed, the narrative’s trajectory underscores how gender norms are always already racialized and how racial norms are always already gendered. This complicates current feminist articulations of the emancipatory city, which often assume whiteness. Fauset’s self-conscious insertion of race into the equation also reveals that while the city is itself organized by and through dominant power relations, urban space has the potential to put normative schemes under pressure. Indeed, the novel’s comparison between the New Woman and the New Negro Woman ideals provides insight into how urbanization made the renegotiation of black middle class femininity possible during the Harlem Renaissance. The modern black bourgeois norm that emerged from this renegotiation certainly created new opportunities for African American women in the public sphere, and, yet, it simultaneously circumscribed black middle-class female sexuality. In this way, the novel can be read as offering a complex perspective on the city’s transformative potential.
~“Collaboration in the Archive: Finding, Shaping, and Disseminating Stories from a Missionary Writer’s Network”
Sarah Ruffing Robbins and Ann Ellis Pullen
This essay argues for carrying out archival scholarship on women’s writing collaboratively and for highlighting links between that approach women’s authorship itself as a collaborative enterprise. Revisiting multiple dimensions of collaboration involved in preparation of a critical edition ofNellie Arnott’s Writings on Angola, 1905-1913, the essay situates those strategies in dialogue with Arnott’s own literacy practices as a missionary deeply embedded in a gendered institutional network of readers, writers, editors, and local colleagues at her teaching site. While revisiting stages of their project’s evolution, the essay’s co-authors demonstrate that archival collaboration takes on different forms over the life of a longstanding research enterprise, even as it capitalizes on differing strengths that participants bring to the work. Similar to the co-authors themselves bringing diverse skills to their research project, they also found that other partners in the enterprise strengthened it in differing ways, whether as family members able to provide important personal context, as scholars on an advisory team whose own archival scholarship represented a range of disciplines, as archival librarians with deep knowledge of primary materials, or as first readers and, later, editors providing feedback for writing about Arnott and her authorship. Consistent with theories of feminist knowledge making, as well as with Arnott’s own experiences of collaborative writing for a variety of venues, this retrospective analysis of an archival project underscores how public even the most personal records of women’s writing actually become.
~“A Riff, A Call, and A Response: Reframing the Problem That Led to Our Being Tokens in Ethnic and Gender Studies; or, Where Are We Going Anyway and with Whom Will We Travel?”
P. Gabrielle Foreman
This piece, part scholarly essay, part poetic call to arms, flags the dangers and seductions of an academic practice that allows progress in our integrated curricula to serve as a substitute for addressing material disparities within and outside of Academe even as those disparities are being brazenly advanced, even doubled-down upon, in the inaugural decades of the twenty-first century. By highlighting instances in which scholars of color and women, like academics with disabilities and GLBT intellectuals, have been displaced or tokenized in fields of study in which we are also embodied subjects, this essay affirms that the Foucauldian question “who exercises power?” cannot be resolved unless its echo, “how does it happen,” is simultaneously addressed. The examples highlighted herein are not exceptional–and that is the point. Rather, they are manifestations of a larger problem academics are tempted to excuse by treating iterative instances as if they’re singular and so obscuring instead of challenging the systems and assumptions they illuminate. By riffing on and revisiting past calls by Barbara Christian, Nellie McKay and Ann duCille, this essay urges present-day accountability, by-laws, protocols and self-reflection that will lead to outcomes that not only include but also respect, retain, and empower specialists who are also the subjects of their studies. This essay, then, answers earlier demands for affirmative responsibility as it extends the legacy of responses— that are also new calls—for us to query what citizenship and belonging mean in the communities and in the fields we plant and grow in.
~Response: “The Politics of the Body: Gender, Race, and Coalition after Twenty Years”
Marking the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Touching Liberty: Abolition, Feminism, and the Politics of the Body, this short piece draws on the cluster of essays published in this issue of Legacy to reflect on the complex nature of collaboration between projects of racial and gender equity in US literary history, in the academy, and in the nation. It concludes that over the last twenty years the American literary canon has expanded, but that during these decades the position of the humanities and of the university has become more precarious. In this present context Sánchez-Eppler argues for the importance not only of constructing true coalitions between black and white feminists and feminisms, but also for recognizing such collaborations as powerful resources in revitalizing the university and assuring educational access and equity.
From the Archives
“María Cristina Mena, Transnationalism, and Mass Media: Untold Stories in the Archive”
Margaret A. Toth
This article focuses on a newly available archive, the María Cristina Mena Chambers Papers, which expands our understanding of the Mexican-American writer María Cristina Mena (1893-1965). The archive reveals that Mena’s writing career was more consistent and productive than scholars understood. Moreover, her literary output is more diverse than previously imagined; she composed in multiple genres about varied subjects. The first section of the article addresses how several items in the archive map onto and reinforce critical perspectives of Mena as a transnational writer. Several pieces, including published and unpublished essays, short stories, and letters, uphold and advance our understanding of how Mena not only engaged in cross-cultural literary pursuits but also carefully built a transnational public identity for herself. The second section turns to a very different Mena that emerges in the archive: an author of sensational fiction written for middlebrow and pulp women’s magazines. These stories reveal that Mena continued exploring gendered power relations, the subject of several of her Mexico stories from the mid-1910s, throughout her career, but within different temporal, geographical, and racial contexts. Featuring Anglo-American characters, the stories take on such subjects as illicit sex, drug and alcohol abuse, and figurative and literal prostitution. Both sections adopt a new modernist critical framework, stressing that while the archive confirms many entrenched views on Mena as a local color writer, we need to remain open to how it complicates the existing narrative we have constructed about her.
Reprint: “My Protocol for Our Sister Americas”
María Cristina [Mena] Chambers
“Solving an Intertextual Manuscript Mystery for Women’s History: The Case of Hannah Mather Crocker’s Reminiscences and Traditions of Boston”
Eileen Hunt Botting
Through a reflection on Umberto Eco’s medieval manuscript mystery The Name of the Rose, this essay articulates the value of Botting’s historical and literary approach to editing the manuscripts of the American author Hannah Mather Crocker (1752-1829). Eco’s concept of intertextuality is used to explain how careful attention to the appendix and marginalia of Crocker’s Reminiscences and Traditions of Boston (c. 1829) reveals its underlying narrative structure as a work of history. The essay draws out the implications of this method of documentary editing for feminist and democratic theory, particularly for understanding Crocker’s own significant contributions to both of these schools of American political thought.
Ellen Mackay Hutchinson (-1933)
Karin L. Hooks
In 1882, Ellen Mackay Hutchinson and Edmund Clarence Stedman began compiling an immense literary history entitled A Library of American Literature. While Stedman’s work on what is now recognized as one of the nineteenth century’s most influential collections has garnered critical attention, Hutchinson has long been ignored in discussions of the Library. Hooks overturns long-held assumptions that Hutchinson worked merely as Stedman’s subordinate, recovering Library correspondence wherein both Stedman and Hutchinson insist that she receive equal credit for her work. Hutchinson’s letters reveal her as a capable and intelligent woman who moved confidently in the male-dominated world of journalism and in the highest journalistic and political circles of her day. For over a quarter of a century, Hutchinson worked at the New-York Tribune, where she rose from reporter to editor of the Sunday edition to literary editor for the paper. Highlighting Hutchinson’s use of gendered language, Hooks demonstrates that Hutchinson manipulated epistolary conventions whenever necessary to get her own way when dealing with Stedman. Finally, Hooks argues that Hutchinson’s archival research indelibly stamped her influence both on the Library, which remained a standard reference work for over forty years, and on the study of American literature.
Excerpts from letters to Arthur G. and Edmund Clarence Stedman
Ellen Mackay Hutchinson
“‘Her First Party’ as Her Last Story: Recovering Kate Chopin’s Fiction”
Bonnie James Shaker and Angela Gianoglio Pettitt
In this essay, Bonnie James Shaker and Angela Gianoglio Pettit consider “Her First Party,” a recovered story by Kate Chopin, in the context of nineteenth-century publication history and the rise of the digital humanities in the twenty-first. Published posthumously in 1905 in the Youth’s Companion, the story mobilizes familiar characteristics of Chopin’s oeuvre to critique white bourgeois standards of respectable femininity. Unlike two other stories believed to be her last publications, “Her First Party” revises our understanding of Chopin’s post-Awakening writing, previously interpreted as somewhat depressed and defeated after the novel’s unfavorable reviews. Instead, “Her First Party” allows us to see that Chopin actually enjoyed many successes with the Companion in the handful of years between her novel and her death. In reinterpreting Chopin’s last writings and their place in the legacy of her work, Shaker and Pettit rely on an analysis of nineteenth-century publishing practices. Because “Her First Party” was published posthumously, the authors argue, as well as in a periodical associated with family fiction and one also known for delaying publication, the story remained “hidden” from modern readers. Using new search methods and databases, however, the authors illuminate the significance of digital research as an exciting tool for recovery. The case of Chopin’s recovered story thus serves both as a testament to the increasing importance of the digital humanities as well as an urgent call for the need to continue historicizing nineteenth-century authorship and publishing practices.
“Her First Party”
Writing with Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance by Ellen Gruber Garvey
- Dickinson Unbound: Paper, Process, Poetics by Alexandra Socarides
- Reading in Time: Emily Dickinson in the Nineteenth Century by Cristanne Miller
The Complete Letters of Constance Fenimore Woolson ed. Sharon L. Dean
Melissa J. Homestead
Transatlantic Women: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and Great Britain ed. Beth L. Lueck, Brigitte Bailey, and Lucinda L. Damon-Bach
The Allotment Plot: Alice C. Fletcher, E. Jane Gay, and Nez Perce Survivance by Nicole Tonkovich
- Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930 by Koritha Mitchell
- Southern Horrors: Women and the Politics of Rape and Lynching by Crystal N. Feimster
Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle by Caroline Maun
Paul C. Jones