Lisa M. Logan
University of Central Florida

Captives, Housewives, and Coquettes: Early American Women’s Literature

This course examines early American women’s traditions of writing. From 1650, when Anne Bradstreet’s collection of poems, The Tenth Muse, Lately Sprung Up in America, was published with ten pages of prefatory material written by men, to 1850, when Nathaniel Hawthorne complained about "that damn’d mob of scribbling women," American women writers endured criticism, censure, and worse for daring to enter public discourse. Twentieth-century literary critics served these women no better—critical theories about American literature and its construction of a national identity have typically omitted the part women played in literary definitions of the American self. By exploring American women’s literature in its historical context and alongside twentieth-century literary and feminist criticism, we will attempt to answer the question, What are the traditions of American women’s writing?

This course will consider the ways that early American women—who were denied legal, political, and economic rights, and whose identities and destinies rested in their bodies’ reproductive capacities—negotiated dominant cultural constructions of themselves and entered the risky space of publication. We will consider the ways that women from diverse ethnic and class backgrounds working within a wide range of genres negotiated the boundaries between authorship and public spectacle.

Required Texts:

William Andrews, ed. Journeys in New Worlds (Wisconsin)
Sharon M. Harris, ed. American Women Writers to 1820 (Oxford)
Judith Fetterley, ed. Provisions: A Reader from 19th-Century American Women (Indiana)
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Harvard)
Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie (Rutgers)
E.D.E.N. Southworth, The Hidden Hand (Rutgers)
Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, ed. American Women’s Captivity Narratives

Critical Texts on Reserve:

Christopher Castiglia, Bound and Determined: Captivity and White Womanhood from
    Mary Rowlandson to Patty Hearst (Chicago, 1996)
Michelle Burnham, Captivity and Sentiment: Cultural Exchange in American Literature,
    1682-1861 (Dartmouth/New England, 1997)
Annette Kolodny, The Land Before Her, Fantasy and Experience of the American
    Frontiers, 1630-1860 (North Carolina, 1984)
_____. "A Map for rereading: Gender and the Interpretation of Literary Texts." New
    Literary History 11 (1980): 451-67.
Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of women in Northern
    New England, 1650-1750 (Vintage, 1980)
Nina Baym, Woman’s Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and About Women in America,
    1820-1870 (Cornell, 1978)
_____."Melodramas of Beset Manhood: How Theories of American Fiction Exclude
    Women Authors." American Quarterly (1981): 123-39.
Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction, 1790-1860
    (Oxford, 1985)
Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America
    (Knopf, 1985)
Joanna Russ, "What Can a Heroine Do? OR Why Women Can’t Write." Images of
    Women in Fiction: Feminist Perspectives Ed. Susan Coppelman Cornillon (Bowling
    Green, 1973).
Linda Kerber, Women of the Republic: Intellect and ideology in Revolutionary American
    (North Carolina, 1980)
Nancy Cott, The Bonds of Womanhood: "Woman’s Sphere" in New England, 1780-1835
    (Yale, 1977)
Shirley Samuels, ed. Cultures of Sentiment (Oxford, 1995)
Catharine Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy (Rutgers reprint)
The fundamental periodical for this course is Legacy (Amherst, Mass)

Course Requirements:

Two 10-page (conference length) papers
One oral presentation
Class participation
Two 1-2 page critical response papers

Tentative Schedule of Events

Week 1: Women in 17th-Century New England
Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson (Andrews)
Critical reading: Ulrich, Castiglia; Lang intro in Andrews

Week 2: 17th- and 18th-Century Captivity Narratives
Hannah Dustan, Mary Lewis Kinnan, Elizabeth Hanson (in Derounian-Stodola)
Critical reading: Castiglia, Derounian-Stodola’s intro.

Week 3: Women Travelling
Sarah Kemble Knight, Elizabeth House Trist (Andrews)
Critical reading: Bush, Kolodny intros. In Andrews

Week 4: Spiritual Identity and Authorized Transgression
Elizabeth Ashbridge (Andrews)
Critical reading: Shea’s intro. In Andrews

Week 5: Seduction and Violence
Charlotte Temple (Harris) and The History of Maria Kittle (Derounian-Stodola)
Critical reading: Burnham

Week 6: Enlightenment?
Judith Sargent Murray, Phillis Wheatley, Abigail Adams, Martha Ballard, Milcah Moore (Harris)
Critical reading: Kerber

Week 7: Student Conference papers—presentations, reviews

Week 8: Revising History
Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Hope Leslie
Critical reading: Zagarell’s intro.

Week 9: Women Writing about Domesticity
Sara Willis Parton, Catharine Sedgwick, Caroline Kirkland (Fetterley)
Critical Reading: Cott, Kolodny, Baym, Tompkins

Week 10: Domesticity and Slavery
Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
Critical Reading: Yellin’s intro., Samuels

Week 11: Subverting Captivity and Domesticity
Spofford (Fetterley) and on handout
Critical Reading: Baym, Samuels

Week 12: Subversion continued
E.D.E.N. Southworth, The Hidden Hand
Critical Reading: Baym, Russ

Week 13: Student Conference papers—presentations, reviews

Week 14: Class Colloquium: Women Writing Today