Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Gertrude Franklin Atherton, 1859--1897: Rewriting women, the slave narrative, and the sentimental novel

Patricia J Sehulster, Fordham University

Abstract

Patricia Sehulster's Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton, 1859–1897: Rewriting Women, The Slave Narrative, and The Sentimental Novel contends that Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911) and Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton (1857–1948), two authors as different from each other as one could possibly imagine, parallel one another in the way that both of these women wrote novels that engaged in a dialogue with mid-to-late nineteenth-century American social issues. The dissertation argues that their novels examine some of the conflicts of American democracy in their presentation of the contradictions inherent in democratic principles that aspire to equality and individuality simultaneously; that never escape their preoccupation with race, ethnicity, and gender; that declare America a Christian, religious society, though it is mired in secular materialism that infects even the supposedly sacrosanct home and fails to consider the non Christians within its borders; and that ignore a history that contradicts the nation's very founding principles. In examining these contexts, these authors contemplated particularly equality and individuality, racism, ethno-snobbery, patriarchy, a non spiritual creed of materialism, and the construction of a false American history. At the same time that these authors examine these contradictions, they never cease wanting to believe in its possibility—in America's and Americans' endless capacity for transformation, reinvention, and the ability to contribute to mankind's progress—and they view New Woman and New Man as the necessary leaders to bring that progress. ^

Subject Area

Literature, American

Recommended Citation

Patricia J Sehulster, "Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Gertrude Franklin Atherton, 1859--1897: Rewriting women, the slave narrative, and the sentimental novel" (January 1, 2007). ETD Collection for Fordham University. Paper AAI3271275.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI3271275

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