Much criticism of nineteenth-century American literature written during the last quarter century has been structured by the concept of “separate spheres,” a construction that often is recreated in contemporary critical practice. The contributors to this special issue examine and contest the way the category of gender—male versus female, extending to include, for example, the oppositions between public and private, worldly and domestic—has organized critical discussion regarding the formulation of American literature. Challenging the separate spheres model, these essays ask how other categories complicate this paradigm, especially with regard to issues of race, sexuality, class, region, religion, and occupation.
In No More Separate Spheres!
both established and new scholars look at the changing categories of analysis—from seventies feminism to nineties postcolonialism—that have shaped this discussion. In her introduction, Cathy N. Davidson assesses the state of criticism with regard to the separate spheres debate, and sets a constructive and often provocative tone for the rest of the volume. While one essay provides an overview of the multiple fronts on which the post-separate spheres model of criticism has been engaged, others offer perspectives that either support of directly confront and critique this model. Rather than seeking to establish yet another critical formula based on the opposition of binary terms, this special issue of American Literature
will help move the debate to the next level.
Contributors. José F. Aranda, Lauren Berlant, Lawrence Buell, Judith Fetterley, Amy Kaplan, You-me Park, Marjorie Pryse, Gail Wald