Exploring the wealth of writings by early American women in a broad spectrum of genres, Women and Authorship in Revolutionary America presents one of the few synthetic approaches to early US women’s writing. Through an examination of the strategic choices writers made as they constructed their authorial identities at a moment when ideals of both Author and Woman were in flux, Angela Vietto argues that the relationship between gender and authorship was dynamic: women writers drew on available conceptions of womanhood to legitimize their activities as writers, and, often simultaneously, drew on various conceptions of authorship to authorize discursive constructions of gender. Focusing on the half-century surrounding the Revolution, this study ranges widely over both well-known and more obscure writers, including Mercy Otis Warren, Judith Sargent Murray, Sarah Wentworth Morton, Hannah Griffitts, Annis Boudinot Stockton, Elizabeth Graeme Fergusson, Deborah Gannett, and Sarah Pogson Smith. The resulting analysis complicates and challenges a number of critical commonplaces, presenting instead a narrative of American literary history that presents the novel as women’s entrée into authorship; dichotomized views of civic and commercial authorship and of manuscript and print cultures; and a persistent sense that women of letters constantly struggled against a literary world that begrudged them entrance based on their gender.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction: Revolutionary American women writers in literary history; Literary sorority in private and in print: publicizing woman's sphere; Maternal authorship: inscribing manhood; The pen and the sword: women writing women warriors; Authorizing female citizenship: beyond Republican motherhood; On careers for women writers: Murray, Warren, Morton; Epilogue; Bibliography; Notes on selected primary texts; Index.
Angela Vietto is Assistant Professor of English at Eastern Illinois University, USA.
'Women and Authorship provides important ways of re-conceiving key concepts in early American women’s writing, including authorship, separate spheres, and the construction of literary history. Engagingly written and highly informative, it also models a new way of writing such history.' Susan S. Williams, author of Reclaiming Authorship: Literary Women in America, 1850-1900 'This refreshingly concise volume traces an alternative history in the development of American women's writing... Highly recommended.' Choice ’The book is particularly useful in its consideration of a variety of genres such as popular religious tracts, histories, and compendia, and of little known authors... It will [...] create interest and debate among American eighteenth-century scholars.’ The Eighteenth-Century Intelligencer