Everyday epistles: the journal-letter writing of American women, 1754-1836Show full item record
|Everyday epistles: the journal-letter writing of American women, 1754-1836
|Doctor of Philosophy
|This dissertation focuses on the journal-letter form as it is utilized by four middle-class women in colonial and early America. Admittedly, a text that is both letter and diary is also, ironically, neither wholly letter nor wholly diary, and thus fails to fit into traditionally recognized categories of autobiographical writing. This difficulty of classification is reflected in current diary and letter scholarship in two primary ways: either the journal-letter is excluded from studies of diaries or letters because of its distinctiveness or its distinctiveness is ignored in the interest of inclusion.^On the contrary, my study highlights hybridity as the defining characteristic of the journal-letter, and I read the simultaneous presence of epistolary and diary elements within the form as illustrative of the creativity and adaptive ability of its writers.^The study begins in 1754, the moment when the concept of the journal-letter was popularized by published travel accounts and the epistolary fiction of Samuel Richardson. It ends in 1836 at the beginning of the mass migrations that inspired thousands of emigrants to write and preserve their experiences in the journal-letter form. I have attempted to chart a preliminary "history" of the journal-letter's development through the examples of four intriguing women: Esther Edwards Burr, Anna Green Winslow, Mary Jackson Lee, and Narcissa Prentiss Whitman.^Drawing on such scholars as Janet Gurkin Altman, Eve Tavor Bannet, and Jennifer Sinor, I show how women joined these two forms of writing into a single text in order to make meaning out of their existence, maintain and strengthen personal relationships, continue their education, and examine and construct the self. Through their texts, the journal-letter emerges as anything but a static form.^It is, indeed a product of the mediums of writing historically and culturally available to and associated with women at a particular moment in time, but it is also highly adaptable to the purposes and needs of individual writers. Ultimately, these "everyday epistles" test the boundaries of diary and letter writing, offering a unique medium for writing the self in the presence of others.
|Williams, Daniel E.
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- Doctoral Dissertations