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Challenging Boundaries

Gender and Periodization

Edited by Joyce W. Warren and Margaret Dickie

Publication Year: 2000

What if the American literary canon were expanded to consistently represent women writers, who do not always fit easily into genres and periods established on the basis of men's writings? How would the study of American literature benefit from this long-needed revision? This timely collection of essays by fourteen women writers breaks new ground in American literary study. Not content to rediscover and awkwardly "fit" female writers into the "white male" scheme of anthologies and college courses, editors Margaret Dickie and Joyce W. Warren question the current boundaries of literary periods, advocating a revised literary canon. The essays consider a wide range of American women writers, including Mary Rowlandson, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Emily Dickinson, Frances Harper, Edith Wharton, Gertrude Stein, Amy Lowell and Adrienne Rich, discussing how the present classification of these writers by periods affects our reading of their work.

Beyond the focus of feminist challenges to American literary periodization, this volume also studies issues of a need for literary reforms considering differences in race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality. The essays are valuable and informative as individual critical studies of specific writers and their works. Challenging Boundaries presents intelligent, original, well-written, and practical arguments in support of long-awaited changes in American literary scholarship and is a milestone of feminist literary study.

Published by: University of Georgia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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The Challenge of Women's Periods

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pp. ix-xxiv

One of the most obdurate institutional restraints in literature is its periodization. Reinforced by the needs of teaching, of criticism, and of professional specialization, established literary periods persist because they serve all of these activities...

One: Challenging Boundaries

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pp. 1-133

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Performativity and the Repositioning of American Literary Realism

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pp. 3-25

Critics who have addressed the question of literary realism have maintained that although the movement began in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, literary realism did not develop in the United States until the end of that century.1 In all of the essays...

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Women's Masterpieces

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pp. 26-38

The distinguished historian Joan Kelly opened her classic essay by charging that "one of the tasks of women's history is to call into question accepted schemes of periodization." For women, she concluded, "There was no renaissance...

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Frances Harper, Charlotte Forten, and African American Literary Reconstruction

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pp. 39-61

As literary critics, we have found the task of reconstructing Reconstruction daunting. We are still hard-pressed to account for the literary moment that lies between the American Renaissance on the one hand and American realism on the other. In his 1993 book...

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"A Queer Lot" and the Lesbians of 1914: Amy Lowell, H.D., and Gertrude Stein

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pp. 62-90

Amy Lowells poem "The Sisters" searches for a matrilineage, invoking the phantom-like yet sustaining Sappho: I know a single slender thing about her: That, loving, she was like a burning birch-tree...

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Black Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance

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pp. 91-106

My commitment to the study of African American women writers of the Harlem Renaissance began more than ten years ago when I was formally introduced to the period in a graduate seminar. The course readings were taken, in part, from what has become...

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Complications of Feminist and Ethnic Literary Theories in Asian American Literature

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pp. 107-133

Johnnella Butler notes that Womens Studies scholars in their "task of changing the world . . . are cast with (Black Studies, Asian American Studies, Latino Studies, and American Indian Studies) with whom in many ways we are uneasy." The tensions...

Two: Re(de)framings

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"American Puritanism" and Mary White Rowlandson's Narrative

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pp. 137-158

In 1977 Joan Kelly asked, "Did women have a Renaissance?" and irrevocably altered the notion of "accepted schemes of periodization." Kelly did not discount the need for something like periodization, however. As a social historian...

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Essential, Portable, Mythical Margaret Fuller

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pp. 159-184

Margaret Fuller s career and reception illuminate as strikingly, perhaps, as those of any other nineteenth-century American woman writer the gendered assumptions and strategies behind periodization in the writing of literary history. As feminist...

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Emily Dickinson in History and Literary History

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pp. 185-201

In discussing Dickinsons "I'm ceded —I've stopped being Theirs,"1 Betsy Erkkila claims that the poet "deploys the politically charged language of secession, but the secession she imagines is not in favor of a sovereign republican self or state"; rather, she secedes into an "essentially monarchical...

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María Amparo Ruiz de Burton Negotiates American Literary Politics and Culture

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pp. 202-225

Of all the racial and cultural impressions people imagine of nineteenth- century Americans, it is doubtful they envision a learned Mexican American woman who writes from Washington, converses with the Lincolns, and reports on the...

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Edith Wharton's Ironic Realism

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pp. 226-247

Despite her achievements, Edith Whartons place in literary history is far from secure.1 Early critics considered her a minor writer, using labels such as "grande dame," "disciple of Henry James" and "novelist of manners" to describe...

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The "Founding Mother": Gertrude Stein and the Cubist Phenomenon

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pp. 248-266

But they called it a "flaw."1 In fact, while our historical knowledge of Gertrude Stein, both as a person and as an artist, has certainly improved in recent years, and some recent critics have gone so far as to see Stein as the first modernist writer...

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The Self-Categorization, Self-Canonization, and Self-Periodization of Adrienne Rich

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pp. 267-283

Since 1951, when her first collection of poetry, A Change of World, appeared, Adrienne Rich has been a constant and influential presence in the literary world. Only twice has she taken more than three years to publish a major collection of poetry...

List of Contributors

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pp. 285-286


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pp. 287-296

E-ISBN-13: 9780820343532
E-ISBN-10: 0820321230
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820343532

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2000