1st Edition

Domesticity and Design in American Women's Lives and Literature Stowe, Alcott, Cather, and Wharton Writing Home

By Caroline Hellman Copyright 2011
    146 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Domesticity and Design in American Women’s Lives and Literature explores the ways in which four American women writers from the mid-nineteenth to the early-twentieth century inhabited domestic space and portrayed it in their work. Hellman explores independent female authors who had intriguing and autonomous relationships with home, relocating frequently either to begin the creative processes of designing and decorating anew or to avoid domestic obligation altogether by remaining in transit. She also looks at how women authors wrote female characters into existence who had strikingly different relationships with home, and contended with profound burdens of housekeeping in an oppressive domestic sphere. The disjunction between the authors' individual existences and the characters to whom they gave life reveals multiple narratives about women at home in nineteenth- and twentieth- century America. This interdisciplinary inquiry undertakes a dual treatment of domesticity in an effort to synthesize a more complete understanding of the relationships between social history and literary accomplishment. Syncretising domestic literature with domestic practice, Hellman appraises the ways in which the authors appropriate domestic rhetoric to address issues of political import: economy, health, and social welfare in the case of Stowe, material feminism for Alcott, the landscape for Cather, and World War I for Wharton.

    Introduction  1. Frocks and Aprons or Geographies: Harriet Beecher Stowe's Reconception of Domesticity  2. A House Multiplied: Louisa May Alcott's Material Feminism  3. Mad [persons] in [Assorted] Attic[s]: Willa Cather's Domestication of Discontent  4. War on the Interior: Edith Wharton's Cabinet War Rooms in the House of the Homeless  5. Conclusion


    Caroline Hellman is an Assistant Professor of English at New York City College of Technology, CUNY, where she teaches writing and literature. She is the recipient of a 2010-2011 Fulbright Award in American Literature at the University of Antwerp, Belgium.

    'Hellman's study of these four authors unsettles the comfortable boundaries that categorize the domestic as personal, private, and female and shows that the use of 'domesticity' as an analytical paradigm continues to lead us to fresh insights about literature, culture, and human experience. Hellman's treatment of familiar and lesser-studied texts by authors already well established in the study of American women writers makes her work of particular relevance to scholars in the subfields of each author.' - TSWL