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78 Western American Literature Local literature, shows how it must often involve a hybrid form of these oppos­ ing traditions. Sumida gives a good description of Local aesthetics which involve, at center, a sense of community, history and polyethnicity. In all, he consistently makes excellent comparisons and points out important differences between Local, mainstream American, and Asian American literature. And while he only gestures toward other “regional” and Native American literatures, readers are encouraged to further recover (not “discover”) connections between worlds on their own. SHARON S. SUZUKI University ofArizona The HomePlot: Women, Writing, andDomestic Ritual. By Ann Romines. (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. 320 pages, $45.00/$15.95.) Romines expands the usual mid-nineteenth-century scope of scholarship on literary domesticity in her discussion of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Willa Cather, and Eudora Welty. Selecting writ­ ers who represent regional variety and a tradition “which both perpetuates and questions the ongoing practice of domestic culture,” Romines explores both the thematic and stylistic range of domestic fiction as it develops from nineteenth -century realism to the modernism of Cather and Welty. Cather is the only writer of the American West included. Although Romines intends to explore affirmations and critiques of domesticity, her reading of Cather typifies her greater attention to affirmation. Romines ex­ plains that Cather’s establishment of lasting relationships with women dimin­ ished the anxiety about entrapment in heterosexual domesticity that marks O Pioneers!, The SongoftheLark, and My Antonia, but Romines’reading of Cather’s later fiction insufficiently supports her claim. For example, to read Death Comes for the Archbishop “as the least conflicted version of housekeeping in Cather’s fiction thus far”overlooks how the homosocial domesticity ofthe French bishop and priest questions heterosexual domesticity. Similarly, Romines reads Shadows on the Rock as Cather’s “full entry into a life of housekeeping” through Cecile. However, Romines only obliquely ad­ dresses the problem that since Cecile is a girl who turns thirteen, even if Cather affirms Cecile’s domestic life with her father, she simultaneously criticizes heterosexual domesticity. In reading Sapphira and the Slave Girl as a nearly unqualified affirmation of domesticity, Romines cursorily notes the capacity of Till and Sapphira to destroy their daughters, and she too simply construes silences between mothers and daughters as Cather’s acknowledgment of the difficult mother-daughter relation. A theoretical inconsistency may partly explain Romines’insufficient atten­ Reviews 79 tion to Cather’s (and others’) questioning of domesticity. Despite disavowing essentialism, Romines variously reveals essentialist assumptions. For example, Romines writes that from the thirties, Cather’sfiction indicates that housekeep­ ing is “an inevitable portion of every North American woman’s potential heri­ tage” (my emphasis). Elsewhere, Romines implies that domesticity is an archetypally rather than historically constituted feature ofwomen’s experience when she likens fictional housekeepers to Hestia, Circe, Demeter, or Persephone. Had Romines clarified her theoretical assumptions and more fully ad­ dressed these writers’ critiques of domesticity, her study would be stronger. Nevertheless, Romines suggestively expands the scope of scholarship on the relation of American women’s writing and domestic culture. PAMELA WALKER Houston, Texas Letters of Catherine Cottam Romney, Plural Wife. Edited by Jennifer Moulton Hansen. (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992. 317 pages, $32.50.) Born in Salt Lake City in 1855, Catherine Cottam Romney spent most of her childhood in St. George, Utah, where her family was sent by the Mormon church to settle the Dixie Mission. At age eighteen, after persuading her parents that she could not live happily without him, she married Miles P. Romney, a personable man of many talents, twelve years her senior, becoming his third wife. He was to have five. Thus, as an untried girl she made the commitment to enter into and uphold the church’s principle of polygamy. Such a marriage conferred unusual status upon the woman: she was a wife instead of thewife and therefore always a fraction less than halfof the marriage. Not every woman so joined could abide this unequal division and maintain harmony both with husband and other wives. Catherine Romney’s letters docu­ ment a marriage that prevailed, enduring to the end of polygamy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 78-79
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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