Legacy Volume 31, No. 2 (2014)

Tributes to Sharon M. Harris

Sharon Harris: Scholar, Mentor, Friend

Susan Belasco, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

The Hidden Hand; or, Sharon Harris, Editor

Nicole Tonkovich, University of California, San Diego

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The Voice of Nature: Hope Leslie and Early American Romanticism

Laurel V. Hankins, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

This article argues that Catharine Maria Sedgwick’s playful frontier romance, Hope Leslie; or, Early Times in the Massachusetts (1827), substitutes the Indian woman for the white woman as the figure whose work—the nativizing of a new generation of Americans—is sanctioned by natural impulses that transcend both the limits and the protections of citizenship. Reading Hope Leslie as an early Romantic experiment rather than as a straightforward precursor to mid-nineteenth-century domestic novels, this article identifies a dynamic relationship between antebellum domesticity and Romantic historiography that works to naturalize culture rather than domesticate nature. The rhetoric of domesticity established the home as the source of private virtue that naturalized civic duty but that also excluded women from the political rights earned by participation in commercial enterprise. Similarly, by establishing the frontier as the source of national character that naturalized American expansion, Romantic historiography worked to preserve rather than assimilate nature’s ever-receding possibilities. Although Sedgwick’s experimental Romanticism protests the artificial confines of domesticity, it can do so only by replacing the disenfranchised white woman of domestic fiction with the forsaken Indian woman of Romantic historiography as the figure who must remain the unassimilated source of the natural values that the United States claims for itself.

Elizabeth Stoddard’s Ars Erotica

Carina D. Pasquesi, Baruch College, The City University of New York

This essay takes up the often noted but seldom analyzed rage at the heart of Elizabeth Stoddard’s novel The Morgesons (1862), arguing that the outsized antisocial feeling that pervades the book comes out of Stoddard’s profound dissatisfaction with dominant social models for being and belonging in Victorian America. While her counterparts internalized their anger with existing models and opportunities for women, Stoddard externalized hers by staging sadistic scenes that bear no trace of the baroque interiority of the sentimental novel. Yet for all its negativity, her rage is generative, enabling alternatives, however unsustained, to conventional notions of family and romantic love.  Drawing on insights from what has been termed the antisocial thesis in queer theory, this essay reads the bad behavior in The Morgesons—frustration, anger, narcissism, stubbornness, sadism, masochism—not as behaviors that need to be domesticated, but as alternatives to the dominant life narratives and the institutions that perpetuate it.  Informed by a nasty sensibility, this coming-of-age story enacts an anti-pedagogy against the domestic novel’s lessons of romantic love, family life, and private property.

Iconoclasm, Parody, and the Provocations of Lydia Maria Child’s A Romance of the Republic

Melissa J. Lingle-Martin, Florida Gulf Coast University

Building upon scholarship that reads Lydia Maria Child’s A Romance of the Republic as an ambitious and forward-thinking yet deeply flawed vision of post-Civil War America, this essay argues that many of the novel’s most troubling scenes function as what W. J. T. Mitchell calls “provocative images,” eliciting criticism, conversation, and change. Lingle-Martin reveals the productive contentions of the novel’s images by analyzing them within the context of Child’s consistent iconoclasm and in contrast to the iconography of Reconstruction exemplified by Max Rosenthal’s Proclamation of Emancipation. Through iconoclasm and parody, Romance proffers a critical counter-image to works like Rosenthal’s that push readers to consider carefully each aspect of representations like Proclamation of Emancipation and Romance, and to see the achievements of the war and Reconstruction more critically. While Proclamation of Emancipation and other popular prints encourage viewers to accept and even celebrate the status quo pictured, Romance functions as a provocative, dialectical image that throws its own representations into question, thereby encouraging revision and change.

The Neighborly Christmas: Gifts, Community, and Regionalism in the Christmas Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett and Mary Wilkins Freeman

Jana Tigchelaar, University of Kansas

To challenge limiting notions of literary regionalism’s marginal or lesser status, this article explores how regional Christmas stories by Sarah Orne Jewett and Mary Wilkins Freeman actively engage with and present alternatives to homogenizing national discourses at a key moment of economic expansion in American capitalism. In particular, Jewett and Freeman present the “neighborly Christmas” as an alternative to the domestic Christmas’s destructive mode of gift exchange, which serves the individual or the family rather than the community and operates as a means of maintaining class distinctions. Jewett and Freeman’s neighborly Christmas shifts the focus to the needs of community (both economic and social) by examining the social benefit of Christmas generosity for marginal, regional communities and their fractured, non-traditional families. Illuminating the “neighborliness” resulting from consumer exchange, the Christmas stories by Jewett and Freeman demonstrate the necessity of cycles of gift exchange that promote empathy and community well-being.

The Limits of the Cosmopolitan Experience in Edith Wharton’s The Buccaneers

Melanie Dawson, The College of William and Mary

This essay explores Wharton’s final, unfinished novel in light of tensions between cosmopolitan openness and a tendency toward a reactive, conservative nationalism.  Set in the 1870s as several American families journey to England for the social season, the novel traces the Americans’ success in the English marriage market.  While the novel’s attention to courtship and cross-cultural romance suggests a fantasy of cosmopolitan openness and egalitarianism, the resulting marriages display the degree to which cross-cultural relations take forms that are far from egalitarian.  As the English response to the marriages is revealed, a troubling nationalism emerges, a reaction that includes both nativist and racist projections that increasingly dominated European political relations in the prelude to the second World War when Wharton was composing The Buccaneers.  Such a context points to the novel as far more than an indulgent and nostalgic fantasy.  Instead, it positions the novel as one of Wharton’s most sustained and critical examinations of the ways exclusionist and racist politics were used to justify a virulent form of nationalism meant to exclude and subordinate any perceived other.  That Wharton attributes such tendencies to European thinking, specifically English thought, suggests the degree to which her portrait of cultural insularity was not a critique exclusive to American culture.

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Legacy Reprint

Ella Rhoads Higginson, Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, and Pacific Northwest Women’s Literary Regionalism

Laura Laffrado, Western Washington University

This essay uncovers the ways once-celebrated Pacific Northwest author Ella Rhoads Higginson ([1862]-1940) uses her now forgotten short story, “The Stubbornness of Uriah Slater” (1899), to resituate and rewrite Mary E. Wilkins Freeman’s well-known story “The Revolt of ‘Mother.’” In so doing, Higginson establishes a pivotal association between women’s literary regionalism of the Pacific Northwest and that of postbellum New England. Laffrado argues that in rewriting “The Revolt of ‘Mother’” Higginson activates a cross-regionalist literary conversation regarding the social and material conditions of US white women. Additionally, this revision allows Higginson to employ the New England of “The Revolt of ‘Mother’” as a recognized literary regional norm against which to delineate more precisely how, in contrast, the Pacific Northwest region might operate as a literary location.  Higginson’s use of “The Revolt of ‘Mother’” extends well beyond revision, however, as she enlists the story as a means to push against and reshape established contours of women’s literary regionalism. “The Stubbornness of Uriah Slater” is thus important because it prompts a critical re-view of late-nineteenth-century US women’s regionalism by appending the Pacific Northwest to other literary regions of the nation, thereby interrupting the dominance of New England in women’s literary regionalism.

The Stubborness of Uriah Slater

Ella Higginson

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From the Archives

“Not Ruined, but Hindered”: Rethinking Scandal, Re-examining Transatlantic Sources, and Recovering Madeleine Pollard

Elizabeth A. De Wolfe, University of New England

This article follows the search for Madeleine Pollard, who disappeared, historically speaking, following an 1894 Breach of Promise suit in which Pollard sued a US congressman for failure to make good on his promise of marriage. Contrary to the intensive coverage of Pollard during the trial, shortly after her victory she apparently vanished from the historical record. Traditional US archival records such as period newspapers, census reports, and other vital records failed to reveal her. Following one clue that indicated she lived a transatlantic life, De Wolfe develops an alternative strategy to recover Pollard. By searching around Pollard, that is, by examining her post-trial social network, we gain an effective and alternative window into her world. As an American expatriate, Pollard was not captured in traditional English records. However, searching these same records for her companion, Violet Hassard, provides key information that helps build a portrait of Pollard’s life abroad. Critically, this methodology helps reframe the author’s perspective on Pollard’s experience, suggesting that imagining the Breach of Promise suit as the pivot point of Pollard’s life obscured a more accurate, life-long narrative—one that moved beyond a binary before and after the scandal or a life lived on one side of the Atlantic or the other. This article suggests that avoiding binary thinking by searching around one’s subject and making use of alternative archival sources can help bring elusive subjects back into visibility.

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Review Essay

Big Books Wanted: Women and Western American Literature in the Twenty-First Century

Victoria Lamont, University of Waterloo

Book Reviews

Empowering Words: Outsiders and Authorship in Early America by Karen A. Weyler

Jennifer Desiderio, Canisius College

The Strange History of the American Quadroon: Free Women of Color in the Revolutionary Atlantic World by Emily Clark

Eve Allegra Raimon, University of Southern Maine

Margaret Fuller and Her Circles edited by Brigitte Bailey, Katheryn P. Viens, and Conrad Edick Wright

Leslie Elizabeth Eckel, Suffolk University

Slavery in American Children’s Literature, 1790-2010 by Paula T. Connolly

Lesley Ginsberg, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Fallen Forests: Emotion, Embodiment, and Ethics in American Women’s Environmental Writing, 1781-1924 by Karen L. Kilcup

Cecily Parks, Emerson College

Rhetorics of Literacy: The Cultivation of American Dialect Poetry by Nadia Nurhussein

Stephanie Farrar, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire