In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the majority of women were forced to seek their education outside the walls of American universities. Many turned to museums and libraries, for their own enlightenment, for formal education, and also for their careers. In Roffman’s close readings of four modernist writers—Edith Wharton, Nella Larsen, Marianne Moore, and Ruth Benedict—she studied the that modernist women writers were simultaneously critical of and shaped by these institutions.
From the Modernist Annex offers new and critically significant ways of understanding these writers and their texts, the distribution of knowledge, and the complicated place of women in modernist institutions.
Many farsighted women writers in nineteenth-century America made thoughtful and sustained use of newspapers and magazines to effect social and political change. “The Only Efficient Instrument”: American Women Writers and the Periodical, 1837-1916 examines these pioneering efforts and demonstrates that American women had a vital presence in the political and intellectual communities of their day.
Women writers and editors of diverse social backgrounds and ethnicities realized very early that the periodical was a powerful tool for education and social reform—it was the only efficient instrument to make themselves and their ideas better known. This collection of critical essays explores American women's engagement with the periodical press and shows their threefold use of the periodical: for social and political advocacy; for the critique of gender roles and social expectations; and for refashioning the periodical as a more inclusive genre that both articulated and obscured such distinctions as class, race, and gender.
Including essays on familiar figures such as Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Kate Chopin, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Only Efficient Instrument” also focuses on writings from lesser-known authors, including Native American Zitkala-Sä, Mexican American María Cristina Mena, African American Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and the Lowell factory workers. Covering nearly eighty years of publishing history, from the press censure of the outspoken Angelina Grimké in 1837 to the last issue of Gilman's Forerunner in 1916, this fascinating collection breaks new ground in the study of the women's rights movement in America.
Recognizing that masculine literary tradition can include marginalized male writers as well as canonized female writers and that traditions themselves change over time, the essays in this insightful and coherent collection also explore the investment of the writers, as well as ninetieth- and twentieth-century readers, in canon creation. As it reconstructs conversations between these earlier authors and initiates new dialogues for today’s readers, Soft Canons offers provocative reconceptualizations of American literary and cultural history.