Date of Degree

2-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

English

Advisor

Morris Dickstein

Subject Categories

American Literature | English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America

Keywords

Kate Chopin, Multimedia, Ruth Stuart

Abstract

My dissertation uses the works and lives of two popular late-nineteenth-century writers, Ruth McEnery Stuart and Kate Chopin, as a heuristic to solve the literary mystery of how "fiction by women" became "women's fiction." While feminist scholars resuscitated Chopin, Stuart remains ignored. The realism and irony of Chopin's novel The Awakening resonate with modern readers, but the sentimental aspects of Stuart's work and Chopin's short fiction remain problematic. The aesthetic movements of realism and naturalism influenced literary taste to the extent that sentimentalism is anathema to contemporary critics. I participate in recent scholarship that explores how sentimentalism has been used by countless writers in all eras as a literary device. I posit that Chopin and Stuart use sentimental devices to remain commercially successful in a difficult publishing market and to introduce transgressive elements in their fiction that broaden realism and naturalism's often narrow and denigrating portrayals of mothers.

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