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Providing an overview of the history of writing by women in the period, this 2001 Companion establishes the context in which this writing emerged, and traces the origin of the terms which have traditionally defined the debate. It includes essays on topics of recent concern, such as women and war, erotic violence, the liberating and disciplinary effects of religion, and examines the work of a variety of women writers, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Rebecca Harding Davis and Louisa May Alcott. The volume plots new directions for the study of American literary history, and provides several valuable tools for students, including a chronology of works and suggestions for further reading.
The field of American women's writing is one characterized by innovation: scholars are discovering new authors and works, as well as new ways of historicizing this literature, rethinking contexts, categories and juxtapositions. Now, after three decades of scholarly investigation and innovation, the rich complexity and diversity of American literature written by women can be seen with a new coherence and subtlety. Dedicated to this expanding heterogeneity, The Cambridge History of American Women's Literature develops and challenges historical, cultural, theoretical, even polemical methods, all of which will advance the future study of American women writers - from Native Americans to postmodern communities, from individual careers to communities of writers and readers. This volume immerses readers in a new dialogue about the range and depth of women's literature in the United States and allows them to trace the ever-evolving shape of the field.
American women novelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries registered a call for a new sexual freedom, Dale Bauer contends. By creating a lexicon of "sex expression," many authors explored sexuality as part of a discourse about women's needs rather than confining it to the realm of sentiments, where it had been relegated (if broached at all) by earlier writers. This new rhetoric of sexuality enabled critical conversations about who had sex, when in life they had it, and how it signified.Whether liberating or repressive, sexuality became a potential force for female agency in these women's novels, Bauer explains, insofar as these novelists seized the power of rhetoric to establish their intellectual authority. Thus, Bauer argues, they helped transform the traditional ideal of sexual purity into a new goal of sexual pleasure, defining in their fiction what intimacy between equals might become.Analyzing the work of canonical as well as popular writers--including Edith Wharton, Anzia Yezierska, Julia Peterkin, and Fannie Hurst, among others--Bauer demonstrates that the new sexualization of American culture was both material and rhetorical.
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