Maternity, masculinity, and the Civil War in American poetry 1850–1914
Farrar, Stephanie Margaret
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Examining nineteenth-century poetry in terms of how it was valued—and used-—in its time, Maternity, Masculinity and the Civil War in American Poetry 1850-1914 explores a political dimension of poetry's cultural work that modernists, and later New Critics, rejected as an aesthetic flaw. More specifically, by engaging with the cultural history of particular decades, the project challenges common assumptions regarding the history of rights discourses to show that in a period when rights were allocated according to race and gender, Frances Harper, Emily Dickinson, and Paul Dunbar aligned rights with maternal or masculine identity rather than juridical terms such as "personhood" or "human rights." Illustrating that each poet examines claims to freedom and national belonging based in the performance—or critique of—gender roles, my analysis proposes that mid-nineteenth-century poetry anticipates later twentieth- century theorizations of the performativity of both gender and race. Joining literary criticism with the cultural study of specific decades, I open poetry more fully to cultural-historical methodologies usually applied to fiction—and more importantly—propose that poetry was a privileged form for acknowledging and exploring the ideological foundations of gender and race in nineteenth-century American literature. A final chapter linking Gertrude Stein's vocabularies of gender and sexuality to the discourses of the nineteenth-century domestic advice manual and representations of "romantic friendship" identifies a historically situated politics concerned with women's role in, and possible emancipation from, an economy of "use." Thus connecting modernist experiment with the monumental status of the mother in the nineteenth-century, I outline an under-acknowledged, feminized genealogy whose trace manifests in discursive "remainders." In doing so, I revise the prevailing "rupture" narrative of modernism by illustrating continuities extending from the nineteenth- on into the twentieth-century.
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