Strangely tangled threads: American women writers negotiating naturalism, 1850-1900Show full item record
|Strangely tangled threads: American women writers negotiating naturalism, 1850-1900
|Ainsworth, Diann Elizabeth Smith
|Doctor of Philosophy
|Using the primary lens of rhetorical criticism to examine eight literary narratives by American women writers from 1850-1900, this dissertation argues that the inclusion of arguments by narrators and characters regarding theories about naturalism is a feminist negotiation of contemporaneous social and scientific debates leading to rhetorical choices which mediate, hybridize, or refute specific aspects of deterministic theories; moreover, these negotiations of theories about naturalism lead to the conclusion that the authors expected to change readers' attitudes or beliefs toward commonly held racial, gender, and class prejudices.The writers in this study, Harriet Wilson, Harriet Jacobs, Rebecca Harding Davis, Pauline Hopkins, Helen Hunt Jackson, Ellen Glasgow, and Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton are rarely associated with American literary naturalism; however,^even though their texts would not be considered naturalistic novels (novels in which characters' lives are determined by hereditary, economic, and social forces beyond control), their rhetorical approach to debating various kinds of determinism establishes these writers as precursors to or participants in the genre of American literary naturalism. In chapter one, I argue that Wilson and Jacobs negotiate naturalism in literary narratives for the rhetorical purpose of changing attitudes toward commonly held pseudo-scientific views of race.^In chapter two, I demonstrate that Hopkins and Jackson theorize a balance among biological and social forces beyond one's control to put an end to cultural fears of hybridity.In chapter three, by examining physical, mental, and moral motivations, either naturally or socially located, Davis and Glasgow offer a view of social order built on moral responsibility or personal spirituality instead of a pure theory of hereditary, economic, or environmental determinism. Chapter four shows that Davis and Ruiz de Burton argue human nature's aggression in the marketplace, although affected by heredity and economic forces beyond control, should still be mediated by moral standards.
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- Doctoral Dissertations