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While American literary history has long acknowledged the profound influence of journalism on canonical male writers, Sari Edelstein argues that American women writers were also influenced by a dynamic relationship with the mainstream press. From the early republic through the turn of the twentieth century, she offers a comprehensive reassessment of writers such as Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Harriet Jacobs, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Drawing on slave narratives, sentimental novels, and realist fiction, Edelstein examines how advances in journalism—including the emergence of the penny press, the rise of the story-paper, and the birth of eyewitness reportage—shaped not only a female literary tradition but also gender conventions themselves.
Excluded from formal politics and lacking the vote, women writers were deft analysts of the prevalent tropes and aesthetic gestures of journalism, which they alternately relied upon and resisted in their efforts to influence public opinion and to intervene in political debates. Ultimately, Between the Novel and the News is a project of recovery that transforms our understanding of the genesis and the development of American women’s writing.
Edited and with an introduction by Theresa Strouth Gaul
Catharine Brown (1800?–1823) became Brainerd Mission School’s first Cherokee convert to Christianity, a missionary teacher, and the first Native American woman whose own writings saw extensive publication in her lifetime. After her death from tuberculosis at age twenty-three, the missionary organization that had educated and later employed Brown commissioned a posthumous biography, Memoir of Catharine Brown, which enjoyed widespread contemporary popularity and praise.
In the following decade, her writings, along with those of other educated Cherokees, became highly politicized and were used in debates about the removal of the Cherokees and other tribes to Indian Territory. Although she was once viewed by literary critics as a docile and dominated victim of missionaries who represented the tragic fate of Indians who abandoned their identities, Brown is now being reconsidered as a figure of enduring Cherokee revitalization, survival, adaptability, and leadership.
In Cherokee Sister Theresa Strouth Gaul collects all of Brown’s writings, consisting of letters and a diary, some appearing in print for the first time, as well as Brown’s biography and a drama and poems about her. This edition of Brown’s collected works and related materials firmly establishes her place in early nineteenth-century culture and her influence on American perceptions of Native Americans.
New Books: Sacramental Shopping: Louisa May Alcott, Edith Wharton, and the Spirit of Modern Consumerism
Becoming Modern: New Nineteenth-Century Studies
University of New Hampshire Press
Illuminates modern consumer culture and its challenges to American identity and values in two classic novels
Written a generation apart and rarely treated together by scholars, Little Women (1868) and The House of Mirth (1905) share a deep concern with materialism, moral development, and self-construction. The heroines in both grapple with conspicuous consumption, an aspect of modernity that challenges older beliefs about ethical behavior and core identity.
Placing both novels at the historical intersection of modern consumer culture and older religious discourse on materialism and identity, Sarah Way Sherman analyzes how Alcott and Wharton rework traditional Protestant discourse to interpret their heroines’ struggle with modern consumerism. Her conclusion reveals how Little Women’s optimism, still buoyed by otherworldly justice, providential interventions, and the notion of essential identity, ultimately gives way to the much darker vision of modern materialistic culture in The House of Mirth.
Rose Elizabeth Cleveland: First Lady and Literary Scholar
Rose Elizabeth Cleveland was the First Lady of the United States for nearly two years assisting her brother, President Grover Cleveland. Lesser known, she was also a literary scholar, novelist, and a poet who published works that empowered women. She lived the last years of her life in Bagni di Lucca (Italy) helping refugees.Throughout her life, she placed herself in the center of controversies concerning the position of women, their social, political and educational rights and opportunities, and the changing attitudes regarding their sexuality. She posed crucial questions about social norms and identity formation, questioned the validity of the heterosexual norm, and challenged patriarchal expectations. This book puts Rose Cleveland in her proper place in the historical record and shows her work concerning the ways in which society perceived, invented, and articulated gender and sexuality to be relevant still today. (more…)
For most people, the US suffrage campaign is encapsulated in images of orators such as the tightly coifed Susan B. Anthony, the wimpled Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others who hectored for women’s rights throughout the nineteenth century. The campaign to secure the vote for US women, however, was also a modern and print-cultural phenomenon, waged with humor, style, and creativity.
In this fascinating cultural history, Mary Chapman demonstrates the importance of the aesthetically innovative print culture produced by US suffragists in the two decades leading up to the passage of the 19th Amendment, seven decades after women’s rights activists first met at Seneca Falls! A century before the advent of “social media”, suffragists mobilized the masses [fashioned a “suffragist spring’] through creative forms of propaganda including advocacy journals, guest-edited mainstream magazines, banners, voiceless speech placards, publicity stunts, poetry, and fiction. These propaganda forms made the public sphere much more inclusive even as they also perpetuated an image of the suffragist New Woman as native-born, white, and middle-class. (more…)
New Books: Faye Halpern, Sentimental Readers, and Ferda Asya, Writers in Europe: 1850 to the Present
How could novels like Uncle Tom’s Cabin change the hearts and minds of thousands of mid-nineteenth-century readers, yet make so many modern readers cringe at their over-the-top, tear-filled scenes? Sentimental Readers explains why sentimental rhetoric was so compelling to readers of that earlier era, why its popularity waned in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and why today it is generally characterized as overly emotional and artificial. But author Faye Halpern also does more: she demonstrates that this now despised rhetoric remains relevant to contemporary writing teachers and literary scholars.
Writers in Europe: 1850 to the Present. Edited by Ferdâ Asya. Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.
The chapters on the works of Nathaniel Parker Willis, E.D.E.N. Southworth, Gertrude Atherton, John Cournos, Edith Wharton, Muriel Rukeyser, Langston Hughes, Edwin Rolfe, John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, Richard Wilbur, Allen Ginsberg, Harriet Welty Rochefort, and Suzy Gershman, explore the impartial critical outlook that American writers acquired in different parts of Europe, from 1850 to the present, and used as a lens to view Europe and America. Focusing on some less familiar writers, they reveal intriguing aspects of the lives and works of American writers than those of the customarily anthologized expatriates. Offering a broad range of American experiences in Europe in an extensive span of time, the book widens the history of the transatlantic cultural and literary dialogue between America and Europe.
From the New Articles page:
Long, Lisa. “A New Midwesternism in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye.” Twentieth-Century Literature 49.2 (Spring 2013): 87-108.
Long, Lisa. “Physics and Faith in the Works of Elizabeth Stuart Phelps.” Clio: A Journal of Literature, History, and the Philosophy of History 42.3 (Summer 2013): 359-83.
Linda M. Grasso published “‘You are no stranger to me’: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Fan Mail” in Reception: Texts, Readers, Audiences, History 5 (2013): 24-40. For summary and links, see “New Scholarship: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Fan Mail”
Kelley, Mark. “Learning to Play the Game of Unhappy Families: Sympathetic Reading and Sentimental Ownership in ‘Uncle Tom and Little Eva,’ a Card Game Adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 46.2 (Fall 2013).