American culture has long had a conflicted relationship with assistance to the poor. Cotton Mather and John Winthrop were staunch proponents of Christian charity as fundamental to colonial American society, while transcendentalists harbored deep skepticism towards benevolence in favor of Emersonian self-reliance and Thoreau’s insistence on an ascetic life. Women in the 19th century, as these essays show, approached issues of benevolence far differently than their male counterparts, consistently promoting assistance to the impoverished, in both their acts and their writings.
These essays address a wide range of subjects: images of the sentimental seamstress figure in women’s fiction; Rebecca Harding Davis’s rewriting of the “industrial” novel; Sarah Orne Jewett’s place in the transcendental tradition of skepticism toward charity, and her subversion of it; the genre of the poorhouse narrative; and the philanthropic work and writings of Hull House founder Jane Addams.
As the editors of Our Sisters’ Keepers argue, the vulnerable and marginal positions occupied by many women in the 19th century fostered an empathetic sensitivity in them to the plight of the poor, and their ability to act and write in advocacy of the impoverished offered a form of empowerment not otherwise available to them. The result was the reformulation of the concept of the American individual.
Contributors include: Jill Bergman, Debra Bernardi, Sarah E. Chinn, Monika Elbert, Lori Merish, Terry D. Novak, James Salazar, Mary Templin, Karen Tracey, Whitney A. Womack
Whereas previous studies of poverty and early modern theatre have concentrated on England and the criminal rogue, Poverty and Charity in Early Modern Theatre and Performance takes a transnational approach, which reveals a greater range of attitudes and charitable practices regarding the poor than state poor laws and rogue books suggest. Close study of German and Latin beggar catalogues, popular songs performed in Italian piazzas, the Paduan actor-playwright Ruzante, the commedia dell’arte in both Italy and France, and Shakespeare demonstrate how early modern theatre and performance could reveal the gap between official policy and actual practices regarding the poor.
The actor-based theatre and performance traditions examined in this study, which persistently explore felt connections between the itinerant actor and the vagabond beggar, evoke the poor through complex and variegated forms of imagination, thought, and feeling. Early modern theatre does not simply reflect the social ills of hunger, poverty, and degradation, but works them through the forms of poverty, involving displacement, condensation, exaggeration, projection, fictionalization, and marginalization. As the critical mass of medieval charity was put into question, the beggar-almsgiver encounter became more like a performance. But it was not a performance whose script was prewritten as the inevitable exposure of the dissembling beggar. Just as people’s attitudes toward the poor could rapidly change from skepticism to sympathy during famines and times of acute need, fictions of performance such as Edgar’s dazzling impersonation of a mad beggar in Shakespeare’s King Lear could prompt responses of sympathy and even radical calls for economic redistribution.
The primal scene of all nineteenth-century western thought might involve an observer gazing at someone poor, most commonly on the streets of a great metropolis, and wondering what the spectacle meant in human, moral, political, and metaphysical terms. For Russia, most of whose people hovered near the poverty line throughout history, the scene is one of special significance, presenting a plethora of questions and possibilities for writers who wished to depict the spiritual and material reality of Russian life. How these writers responded, and what their portrayal of poverty reveals and articulates about core values of Russian culture, is the subject of this book, which offers a compelling look into the peculiar convergence in nineteenth-century Russian literature of ideas about the poor and about the processes of art.
In the United States, perhaps no minority group is considered as "model" or successful as the Asian American community. Rather than living in ominous "ghettoes," Asian Americans are described as residing in positive-sounding "ethnic enclaves." Writing the Ghetto helps clarify the hidden or unspoken class inequalities faced by Asian Americans, while insightfully analyzing the effect such notions have had on their literary voices.
Yoonmee Chang examines the class structure of Chinatowns, Koreatowns, Little Tokyos, and Little Indias, arguing that ghettoization in these spaces is disguised. She maintains that Asian American literature both contributes to and challenges this masking through its marginalization by what she calls the "ethnographic imperative." Chang discusses texts from the late nineteenth century to the present, including those of Sui Sin Far, Winnifred Eaton, Monica Sone, Fae Myenne Ng, Chang-rae Lee, S. Mitra Kalita, and Nam Le. These texts are situated in the contexts of the Chinese Exclusion Era, Japanese American internment during World War II, the globalization of Chinatown in the late twentieth century, the Vietnam War, the 1992 Los Angeles riots, and the contemporary emergence of the "ethnoburb."