"Married or single?" Bachelors, spinsters and critiques of marriage in nineteenth-century American literature, 1820--1870
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My dissertation, 'Married or Single?': Bachelors, Spinsters, and Critiques of Marriage in Nineteenth-Century American Literature, 1820-1870 , makes a case for a renewed understanding of nineteenth-century marriage that does not place the unmarried as peripheral to this institution. Instead of exiling the bachelor and spinster in terms of what marriage means, I show how these figures work to define and redefine marriage in a culture where the "married or single" binary serves as an organizing ideology for what it means to "be an American." I offer a comparative analysis to show how single men and women came to reconcile the divide between this seemingly stable polarity. The individual chapters provide close readings of Washington Irving, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Donald Grant Mitchell and Louisa May Alcott.