Sex Expression and American Women Writers, 1860-1940

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American women novelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries registered a call for a new sexual freedom, Dale Bauer contends. By creating a lexicon of "sex expression," many authors explored sexuality as part of a discourse about women's needs rather than confining it to the realm of sentiments, where it had been relegated (if broached at all) by earlier writers. This new rhetoric of sexuality enabled critical conversations about who had sex, when in life they ...
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Overview

American women novelists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries registered a call for a new sexual freedom, Dale Bauer contends. By creating a lexicon of "sex expression," many authors explored sexuality as part of a discourse about women's needs rather than confining it to the realm of sentiments, where it had been relegated (if broached at all) by earlier writers. This new rhetoric of sexuality enabled critical conversations about who had sex, when in life they had it, and how it signified.

Whether liberating or repressive, sexuality became a potential force for female agency in these women's novels, Bauer explains, insofar as these novelists seized the power of rhetoric to establish their intellectual authority. Thus, Bauer argues, they helped transform the traditional ideal of sexual purity into a new goal of sexual pleasure, defining in their fiction what intimacy between equals might become.

Analyzing the work of canonical as well as popular writers--including Edith Wharton, Anzia Yezierska, Julia Peterkin, and Fannie Hurst, among others--Bauer demonstrates that the new sexualization of American culture was both material and rhetorical.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A useful and intellectually stimulating collection of essays. . . . A wonderful starting point for further explorations of Creolism in the Americas."--Legacy

"Bauer is immensely knowledgeable about the byways of American women writers, and she draws on a wide range of authors, some rarely discussed. . . . Fascinating . . . an intriguing account."--Journal of American Studies

"Demonstrates significant changes in attitudes toward women's sexuality in popular fiction."--Choice

From the Publisher
"Bauer is immensely knowledgeable about the byways of American women writers, and she draws on a wide range of authors, some rarely discussed. . . . Fascinating . . . an intriguing account."
-Journal of American Studies

"Demonstrates significant changes in attitudes toward women's sexuality in popular fiction."
-Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807859063
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 1/15/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Dale M. Bauer is professor of English at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is author or editor of five books, including Edith Wharton's Brave New Politics and the Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth-Century American Women's Writing.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 The Sexualization of American Culture 21

2 Blood, Sex, and the Ugly Girl 41

3 Refusing Middle Age 71

4 Sex Power 105

5 Inarticulate Sex 141

6 Is Sex Everything? 179

Conclusion: Sexual Exhaustion 217

Notes 233

Bibliography 249

Index 263

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