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New Books: Fallen Forests: Emotion, Embodiment, and Ethics in American Women’s Environmental Writing, 1781-1924 by Karen L. Kilcup
How women writers made powerful emotional, ethical, and spiritual appeals for environmental awareness and transformation
In 1844, Lydia Sigourney asserted, “Man’s warfare on the trees is terrible.” Like Sigourney many American women of her day engaged with such issues as sustainability, resource wars, globalization, voluntary simplicity, Christian ecology, and environmental justice. Illuminating the foundations for contemporary women’s environmental writing, Fallen Forests shows how their nineteenth-century predecessors marshaled powerful affective, ethical, and spiritual resources to chastise, educate, and motivate readers to engage in positive social change.
Fallen Forests contributes to scholarship in American women’s writing, ecofeminism, ecocriticism, and feminist rhetoric, expanding the literary, historical, and theoretical grounds for some of today’s most pressing environmental debates. Karen L. Kilcup rejects prior critical emphases on sentimentalism to show how women writers have drawn on their literary emotional intelligence to raise readers’ consciousness about social and environmental issues. She also critiques ecocriticism’s idealizing tendency, which has elided women’s complicity in agendas that depart from today’s environmental orthodoxies. (more…)
Bannett, Nina. “Keepsakes, Promises, Exchange: Female Friendship in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s The Pearl of Orr’s Island.”
The New England Quarterly September 2014, Vol. 87, No. 3: 412–433.
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Amanda Golden, “Anne Sexton’s Modern Library.” Collecting, Curating, and Researching Writers’ Libraries: A Handbook. Eds. Richard W. Oram and Joseph Nicholson. Scarecrow Press, Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. 85-102.
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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…)