Award Date

5-1-2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Committee Member

Joseph McCullough

Second Committee Member

Felicia Campbell

Third Committee Member

Evelyn Gajowski

Fourth Committee Member

Joanne Goodwin

Number of Pages

182

Abstract

Placing the generic conventions of medieval hagiography, Nina Baym's insights about nineteenth-century American sentimental fiction's overplot, and contemporary American women's popular literature into tension illuminates some important commonalities. First, biographers of the medieval virgin saints and authors of contemporary American women's popular literature deploy the same overplot that Baym identifies as characteristic of American women's nineteenth-century popular fiction. Second, in order to define feminine virtue and establish the virtue of their protagonists, nineteenth-century and post-millennial American women writers rework the contrastive tropes by which hagiographers establish their heroines' virtue. Third, struggles for ascendance in the domestic realm gesture toward its inherently political functions. Fourth, contemporary American women's popular literature presupposes and reproduces a medieval configuration of the female body as a site for narrative and political conflict and locates women's work in a hybrid domestic-work space. Finally, the literary reconfiguration of the workspace undoes the public-private distinction on which theories of democratic liberalism rely to construct male citizenship.

Keywords

characterization; hagiography; interpretive practices; Nina Baym; sentiment; women's humor

Disciplines

American Literature | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality

Language

English


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