American Madonna: Images of the Divine Woman in Literary Culture / Edition 1

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This book explores a notable if unlikely undercurrent of interest in Mary as mythical Madonna that has persisted in American life and letters from fairly early in the nineteenth century into the later twentieth. This imaginative involvement with the Divine Woman — verging at times on devotional homage — is especially intriguing as manifested in the Protestant writers who are the focus of this study: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harold Frederic, Henry Adams, and T.S. Eliot. John Gatta argues that flirtation with the Marian cultus offered Protestant writers symbolic compensation for what might be culturally diagnosed as a deficiency of psychic femininity, or anima, in America. He argues that the literary configurations of the mythical Madonna express a subsurface cultural resistance to the prevailing rationalism and pragmatism of the American mind in an age of entrepreneurial conquest.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brilliant....Gatta's study is a model for the kind of scholarship at which all of us, at our best, aim. It is fully researched, excellently composed, and full of insight."—Christianity and Literature

"Gatta displays an enviable interdisciplinary mastery of his subject and demonstrates the widespread presence Mary has held in one form or another in American culture. Remarkable for its intelligence and depth."—Choice

"Gatta's study is a model for the kind of scholarship at which all of us, at our best, aim. It is fully researched, excellently composed, and full of insight."—Joseph Schwartz, Marquette University

"This study of a literary counterculture will be appreciated by all with interests in American literature, Marian piety, and the intersection of religious literary motifs and social reality."—Anglican Theological Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195112627
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/28/1997
  • Series: Religion in America Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Lexile: 1560L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

John Gatta is Professor of English and English Department Head at the University of Connecticut. His publications, most concerned with religion and literature, include numerous journal articles and an award-winning book on the New England poet Edward Taylor.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 The Sacred Woman: The Problem of Hawthorne's Madonnas 10
Of Holy Mothers and Dark Ladies 10
Hester's Divine Maternity 15
Queen Zenobia of Blithedale 20
The New England Maiden and the Fallen Goddess of The Marble Faun 26
Hawthorne's Search for Sacred Love: From Puritan Fathers to Divine Mothers 31
2 The Virginal Soul of Margaret Fuller's Woman in the Nineteenth Century 33
Queen Margaret's Mythmaking 33
"Her own creator": Images of Self-fashioning in Minerva, Leila, and Mary through 1844 34
The Mary Victoria of Woman in the Nineteenth Century 41
3 Calvinism Feminized: Divine Matriarchy in Harriet Beecher Stowe 53
Godly Maternity and Motherly Jesus 53
Birthpangs of the New Order in Uncle Tom's Cabin 58
The Ministry of Mary in The Minister's Wooing 62
Other Appearances of the Madonna-Intercessor in Agnes of Sorrento, Poganuc People, and The Pearl of Orr's Island 67
Sacrament of Mother-Love, Compassion of the Mater Dolorosa 71
4 The Sexual Madonna in Harold Frederic's Damnation of Theron Ware 72
The Post-Romantic Madonna of the Future 72
Celia Madden: Catholic Madonna or Sex Goddess? 76
From Maya and Mary to the New Woman 84
The Unsettling Character of Soulsby and the Undoing of Ware 91
Beyond Illusion: The Grace of Critical Realism 93
5 Henry Adams: The Virgin as Dynamo 95
The Woman Unknown in America 95
The Adamic Quest for New Eve 96
"The place has no heart": Preserves of Womanly Grace in Democracy and Esther 99
Mary of Chartres as Personal Presence and Romantic Ideal 105
Adams's Education: The Unknowable and Generative Woman 110
6 Eliot's Archetypal Lady of Sea and Garden: The Recovery of Myth 116
Myth, Modernism, and Lady Mary 116
The Sibyl and Belladonna of The Waste Land 118
Toward Our Lady of la Vita Nuova 121
Eliot's Soul Sisters: The Sacred and Profane Ladies of "Ash-Wednesday" 124
"Best Dead Madonna this side Atlantic": "The Dry Salvages" and the Quartets 131
Epilogue 137
Appendix "Raphael's Deposition from the Cross," by Margaret Fuller; "Mary at the Cross" and "The Sorrows of Mary," by Harriet Beecher Stowe; Excerpt from "The Golden Legend" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 141
Notes 151
Index 173
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