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The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Women's Writing


The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Women's Writing


Editors: Dale Bauer and Philip Gould

Contributing author: Elizabeth A. Petrino


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Elizabeth Petrino is a contributing author, "Nineteenth-Century American Women's Poetry", pp 122-142.

Book description: Providing an overview of the history of writing by women in the period, this companion examines contextually the work of a variety of women writers, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Rebecca Harding Davis and Louisa May Alcott. The volume provides several valuable tools for students, including a chronology of works and suggestions for further reading.

Chapter description: The study of nineteenth-century American women’s poetry is undergoing a renaissance. Aside from Emily Dickinson, nineteenth-century female poets were largely forgotten until the archival investigations of the 1970s, when they were rediscovered and examined by several critics. Despite the already extensive effort to reprint women’s poems, write their critical biographies, pioneer new and more useful anthologies, and compile lengthy and inclusive encyclopedias, scholars have only begun to examine critical approaches to women’s poems and the assumptions they bring to bear on reading and teaching women’s writing. What do these anthologies tell us about nineteenthcentury American women’s writing? How should we judge their poetry? In “Nineteenth-Century American Women Poets Revisited”(1998),Cheryl Walker contends that women’s writing contains more stylistic variety and vocal complexity than previously ascribed. In The Nightingale’s Burden (1982), she identifies several persistent types of poems: the “sanctuary” poem, in which the protagonist finds freedom in a shelter; the power fantasy; the “free bird” poem, in which the speaker identifies with a bird in flight and symbolically imagines freeing herself; and the marriage poem. Although her essay still identifies generic features in women’s poems, Walker advocates dividing women’s poetry into four temporal and stylistic categories: early national, romantic, realist, and modern. Early national poets, like Lydia Sigourney, appeal to piety and reason, praise decorum, and base their belief in human dignity on democracy.



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Petrino, Eliabeth . "Nineteenth-Century American Women's Poetry" IN The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Women's Writing. Dale Bauer and Philip Gould (eds.), Cambridge University Press 2001, pp. 122-142.

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Copyright 2001 Cambridge University Press

The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Women's Writing