The Trials of a New England Coquette: Rockford and the Romantic History of Lillie Devereux Blake
Vera R. Foley
Lillie Devereux Blake deviates in her second novel, Rockford; or, Sunshine and Storm (1863), from her adherence to the traditional nineteenth-century literary pattern of punishing perceived sexual misconduct in her female protagonist. In Rockford, her only novel to appear during the Civil War, Blake repeatedly acknowledges the coquetry of her heroine, Edith Rockford, while insisting that Edith’s flirtatious behavior is in fact grounded in naiveté and virtue. By demanding that the reader distinguish between what I call “naïve coquetry” and its supposedly dissolute counterpart, Blake critiques prevailing notions of feminine propriety that conflate flirtation and sexual license. This distinction is especially significant in light of the resemblance between the condemnation that Edith faces in her fictional narrative and the scandal that a youthful Lillie Devereux generated as the most conspicuous flirt in New Haven in 1854, when she stood accused of engaging in inappropriate liaisons with multiple Yale University students. Rockford, I argue, represents Blake’s retrospective vindication of her own conduct in this debacle: a rare personal commentary on an incident that her family hastily obscured. This experience provides the foundation of her fictional portrayal of the hazards of the American marriage market; Blake suggests that the community that both she and her fictional avatar inhabit actually facilitates masculine importunities rather than honoring and protecting vivacious but virtuous women.
Turning Over Fresh Leaves: A Reconsideration of Fanny Fern’s Periodical Writing
The majority of scholarship focusing on Fanny Fern’s periodical writings has relied either on Fern’s six published collections of newspaper columns or on the selected columns reprinted in Joyce Warren’s Ruth Hall and Other Writings. Yet, the articles in these collections represent less than half of Fern’s total periodical output during her career. The result has been a selective portrait of a complex writer. Turning to Fern’s uncollected periodical writings in their original contexts is the only way to begin to understand the full scope and substance of Fern’s periodical persona. At its broadest level, this essay is thus a call for scholars of Fern to consider the sources from which we draw our conclusions about both the writer and her writing. Drawing from previously uncollected material now being made available through an online digital edition of Fern’s columns for the New York Ledger, the essay highlights a selection of Fern’s writings that have been lost to us as a result of our current scholarly practices. In doing so, it suggests some of the ways that this previously overlooked material can intervene in a number of key areas of Fern scholarship, including discussions of her feminist progressivism, and her handling of both her professional reputation and her status as a nineteenth century literary celebrity. It also considers how our understanding of Fern might be complicated by the meta- and paratextual material within the periodical pages on which her work appeared.
H.D., Imagiste Synesthete
This article examines how gender, sexuality, and technology influence H.D’s sensory experimentation in HERmione. New and evolving technologies prompted modernist writers to reconsider what it meant to smell, touch, taste, see, and hear. In HERmione, the male-centered microscope prompts this reconsideration. Associated with H.D.’s paternal heritage, the microscope represents the restrictive, often violent, sensory practices that H.D. and her alter ego, Hermione, reject. Consequently, the microscope inspires H.D. to envision a more inclusive sensorium—one that challenges sensory hierarchies and crosses not only sensual, but social bounds. This article attends to that crossing and articulates how H.D. crafts a synasthetic space that invites and celebrates queer and nonhuman modes of perception. Specifically, this article argues that Hermione’s queer relationship with Fayne Rabb, a figured based on Frances Josepha Gregg, encourages sensory experimentation. This sensory experimentation extends beyond the human to embrace the multisensuality of single-celled sea creatures, like the mollusk. In so doing, H.D. defies popular thinking, which views the human senses as superior and synasthesia as a sign of degeneration.
From the Archives
Willa Cather in the Denver Times in 1915 and New Evidence of the Origins of The Professor’s House
Melissa J. Homestead
In interviews later in her career, Willa Cather claimed that she never self-consciously gathered material for her fiction. In a previously-uncollected interview with the Denver Times from 1915, she frankly avows that she is on her way to Mesa Verde National Park to gather material for a new novel. This feature introduces this interview, explaining how it provides new evidence of the origins of Cather’s novel The Professor’s House (1925). I also draw on newly-available materials documenting a trip her father, Charles Cather, took to the Southwest in 1872 to flesh out her claim that her planned novel about about cliff dweller ruins had its origins in her childhood.
In the interview, Cather also presents herself as an author in a strikingly different manner than she did in later interviews. Rather than presenting herself as unconcerned with the market for her fiction, she frankly describes writing as a business subject to the forces of supply and demand. I also consider how and why portions of this Denver Times interview came to recirculate in Lincoln, Nebraska, several months later, when Cather was visiting there.
Profile of Fanny Fern (1985)
Joyce W. Warren
The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright, by Ann M. Little and In the Neighborhood: Women’s Publication in Early America, by Caroline Wigginton
Joanne van der Woude
Archives of Labor: Working-Class Women and Literary Culture in the Antebellum United States, by Lori Merish
Archives of Dispossession: Recovering the Testimonios of Mexican American Herederas, 1848-1960, by Karen R. Roybal
Díana Noreen Rivera
The Illustrated Slave: Empathy, Graphic Narrative, and the Visual Culture of the Transatlantic Abolition Movement, 1800-1852, by Martha J. Cutter
Who Writes for Black Children? African American Children’s Literature before 1900, edited by Katharine Capshaw and Anna Mae Duane
Invisible Hosts: Performing the Nineteenth-Century Spirit Medium’s Autobiography, by Elizabeth Schleber Lowry
Laura Thiemann Scales
Whispers of Cruel Wrongs: The Correspondence of Louisa Jacobs and Her Circle, 1879-1911, edited by Mary Maillard
Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing, by Donna M. Campbell
Michael R. Mauritzen
Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century, by Matilda Rabinowitz
Ashley Elizabeth Palmer
The Subversive Art of Zelda Fitzgerald, by Deborah Pike
Laura Jernegan: Girl on a Whaleship, a website created by Martha’s Vineyard Museum