Sentimental Collaborations: Mourning and Middle-Class Identity in Nineteenth-Century America by Mary Louise Kete (review)
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period in which theywrote. Biographies published in close proximity to Emerson's death offered uniformly positive reports of Concord's sage (276). Later biographers emphasized Emerson's "adaptations" ofthe thinking ofworld famous philosophers such as Plato, Coleridge, and Goethe (277). The psychological portrait of Emerson, published by Professor Stephen Whicher in 1953, still remains influential today. Bosco argues that "serious study" remains to be completed on the part ofEmerson's late career that has been lost to the "present generation" mostly due to Whicher's influence of valuing only Emerson's work from the period 1830-1860 (277-79, 283). Fortunately the newvolume, TheLaterLectures ofRalph WaUhEmerson, 1843— 1871 will include lectures from the final productive decade of his life. Scholars may question the extent ofthe editing performed by the Emerson family because of Emerson's aphasia. However, cautions regarding the editing may be brought out without causing the work to be disregarded. The scholars who contributed to The Historical Guide have enriched the readers of Emerson's texts by taking the opportunity to explain changes in his opinions over time by placing the statements in context with events in his life, including his interactions with brilliant literary figures as well as various special interest groups that shaped the history ofAmerica. In addition, the reader of this guide gains an opportunity to perceive the historical importance of Emerson's actions that might not be revealed within the text ofhis essays and lectures. For example, Emerson's writings about slavery, read in isolation, would not necessarily indicate the weight ofhis influence or exactly what he did as a citizen ofConcord to act as an advocate of freedom for all. Mary Louise Kete. Sentimental Collaborations: MourningandMiddleClass Identity in Nineteenth-CenturyAmerica. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000. 280p. Elizabeth Dill SUNY Buffalo Mary Louise Kete's bold critical work, Sentimental Collaborations, offers a radically new historicist methodology. The book's unique project is to develop a new poetics through an analysis ofa collection ofpoetrywritten by a small and, as Kete notes, a most emphatically "ordinary" community of nineteenth-century New Englanders. Indeed, although Kete includes extensive analysis ofwriters such as Sigourney, Longfellow, Stowe, and Twain, a significant portion of the text is a publication ofHarriet GouWs Book. This is a text in which Harriet Gould and her SPRING 2001 -1- ROCKY MOUNTAIN REVIEW * 113 extended family in Vermont wrote poems to one another as gifts that, Kete argues , constituted a middle-class culture that dealtwidi mourning and loss through sentiment. Billed as an appendix, it still feels like part of the main body of the work, inviting us to read it. It is a fascinating move, one that perhaps honors this poetry as the real stuff. That is, there is no patronizing "recovery" work here; Kete is not suggesting that we read Harriet GouUi's Book merely for its historical or cultural value. Certainly Kete's argument offers plenty ofhistorical and cultural analysis, but herwork expands into aesthetic evaluation as well. There is a poetics lurking here. Kete is careful to point out in the first paragraph ofher preface that diese poems themselves came to her as a gift from her mother-in-law; while at first both women regarded the writing with studied cynicism, they eventually found they were moved by these sentimental poems. Such a moment gives way to Kete's investigation ofthe "utopian aspects ofsentimentality," and it isolates sentimental poetry's capacity to reach out to its readers. It also rather self-consciously points to a fairly random selection ofwriters and howand why these "gifts" might suggest a new way to read nineteenth-century poetry. The first three chapters of Sentimental Cottaborations present close readings of poems from Harriet GouUi's Book, and Kete eschews the approach ofthe new historical apologist who assesses the text's cultural work outside aesdietic evaluations of a text's essential literary worth. Rather, Kete reads these poems as constitutive ofwhat she calls a "sentimental poetics." Her methodology insists upon an organic link between aesthetic and cultural values; in true new historical form, Kete suggests that cultural value might be the origin ofaesthetic value, but she avoids making a case for these poems as valuable merely on...


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