Sentimental Literature as Social Criticism:Susan Warner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Emma D.E.N. Southworth as Active Agents, Negotiating Change in the United States in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Detractors of sentimental literature argue that such novels are unoriginal and concerned primarily with emotions. Feminist scholars redeem the reputation of sentimental literature to an extent. At present, a multitude of approaches present sentimental authors as active agents, engaging with public issues. Building upon the scholarship of prominent feminist historians and literary critics, this thesis provides direct evidence that three female authors embrace the responsibilities of being a social critic. The Wide, Wide World (1850) by Susan Warner, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1851) by Harriet Beecher Stowe, and The Hidden Hand (1859) by Emma D.E.N. Southworth provide unique commentaries on the separation of the private and public spheres, market revolution, and religion. Decisive differences between the authors’ opinions reveal a high degree of engagement with the public issues.