Excavating the landscapes of American literature: Archaeology, antiquarianism, and the landscape in American women's writing, 1820--1890
Date of Award
Program or Major
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation investigates the ways that women writers made use of the discourses of antiquarianism and archaeology between the years 1820 and 1890. Focusing especially upon the writings of Sarah Josepha Hale, Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Celia Thaxter, and Constance Fenimore Woolson, the project examines depictions of artifacts, ruins, relics, and other antiquities in literary landscapes. Each of these women presents a unique way of knowing the world that is manifested in the ways their texts join different ways of understanding the landscape, its occupants, the artifacts it contains, its strata and geological history, and its aesthetic value. They provide insight into the act of "reading" the text of the landscape and interpreting its meaning(s). Women writers, I argue, were aware of the traditional connections between the figure of the antiquarian and that of the spinster as they constructed their archaeological landscapes. One of the major claims of this dissertation is that women writers took on the authorial persona of the "antiquarian" in order to comment on three separate but related areas of concern: the single life for women, women's authorship and artistry, and the nature of women's genius. The emphasis in this study is on the ways that women participated in reading values into actual and textual landscapes, fashioning literary locations for debates on these issues. It investigates the ways that they reproduced these values and meanings in their literary works---how, and to what extent, they took on the role of "antiquarian" when they incorporated ancient subjects and places in their writing.
Healey, Christina, "Excavating the landscapes of American literature: Archaeology, antiquarianism, and the landscape in American women's writing, 1820--1890" (2009). Doctoral Dissertations. 475.