• Men and “Scribbling Women”: Changing Places in Captivity

    Mallory DeGregori (see profile)
    CLCS Romantic and 19th-Century, LLC 19th-Century American, TC Women’s and Gender Studies, TM Literary Criticism
    American literature, Romance-language literature
    Item Type:
    Womens History Month, Romance literature
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    Sentimental fiction and domestic novels elevated the female voice, giving authority to the womanly experience as wives, mothers, and women. Novels such as Maria Susanna Cummins’s The Lamplighter and Sara Payson Willis’s Ruth Hall adopted the ideology of feminine behavior and womanliness while, implying tones of dissatisfaction with the role and image of women within society. Thus elevating the idea of woman’s independence and moral superiority over men. This literary and cultural shift changed the writing sphere as women writers outsold popular, contemporary writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. Women writers dominated the sentimental and domestic genre that male equivalents could not produce. Melville’s Pierre; or the Ambiguities attempted to engage in the sentimental style and topics that women writers were undertaking, but based on book sales and contemporary criticism it is evident that Melville could not appeal to American society as successfully as women writers. Hawthorne’s literary earnings from The Blithedale Romance reveal the same unsuccessful attempts as Melville and his remarks upon women writers and sentimental fiction to his friend and publisher William D. Ticknor demonstrate the threat male writers felt from the progress of women writers. This paper’s comparison of male and female writers analyzes how women advancing as authors affects men as authors, men within novels, and males attempting to engage in sentimental writing. I argue that the sentimental and domestic genre allows women to advance in society leaving the captivity of domesticity, while the male counterparts are forced into captivity as they are removed from their dominant position within society.
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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