American Women Writers and the Work of History, 1790-1860

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Just as she helped launch the rediscovery of literary texts by American women writers, Nina Baym now uncovers the work of history performed by over 150 writers in over 350 texts. Here she explores a world of important writing unknown even to most specialists. The novels, poems, plays, textbooks, and travel narratives written by women between 1790 and the Civil War defy current theories of women's writing that stress a female domain of the private, homebound, and emotional. History is inarguably public in its nature and these women wrote it. In doing so, they challenged the imaginative and intellectual boundaries that divided domestic and public worlds. They claimed on behalf of all women the rights to know and to speak about the world outside the home, as well as to circulate their knowledge and opinions among the public. Their work helped shape the enormous public interest in history characteristic of the antebellum nation, and ultimately to forge our national identity in the history of the world. Nina Baym deftly outlines the master narrative of history implied in women's writings of this period, and discusses in a completely revisioned context the emergence of women's history in public discourse.

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AMERICAN WOMEN WRITERS AND THE WORK OF HISTORY, 1790-1860

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By revealing women's use of history in the making of it, Baym rebuts conventional wisdom about women's absence from national life in antebellum America. Baym (English/Univ. of Illinois, Champaign ... Read full review

Contents

Women as Students of History II
11
Maternal Historians Didactic Mothers
29
History from the Divine Point of View
46
Copyright

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About the author (1995)

Nina Baym taught at the University of Illinois, where she specialized in American Literature. She is General Editor of the Norton Anthology of American Literature, the most widely used textbook in the field. She has won Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Mellon Foundation fellowships. In 2000 she won the Jay Hubbell Award from the Modern Language Association, awarded for lifetime contributions to the study of American literature. Her first book was about Nathaniel Hawthorne, and she has published a Twayne study of The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne's complaint in a private letter about the "damn'd mob of scribbling women," whose works were popular while his were not inspired her to find out who these forgotten women were and what they wrote. The first of her books on this topic was Woman's Fiction (1978); then came American Women Writers and the Work of History; next American Women of Letters and the Nineteenth-Century Sciences. Some of her essays were brought together in Feminism and American Literary History. Her newest foray is Women Writers of the American West, 1833-1927, which describes the western books of over 340 American women including Native American women and African Americans, and covers the transMississippi West from Texas to Oregon.

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