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The Feminization of American Culture

Overview

This modern classic by one of our leading scholars seeks to explain the values prevalent in today's mass culture by tracing them back to their roots in the Victorian era. As religion lost its hold on the public mind, clergymen and educated women, powerless and insignificant in the society of the time, together exerted a profound effect on the only areas open to their influence: the arts and literature. Women wrote books that idealized the very qualities that kept them powerless: timidity, piety, and a disdain for...

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Overview

This modern classic by one of our leading scholars seeks to explain the values prevalent in today's mass culture by tracing them back to their roots in the Victorian era. As religion lost its hold on the public mind, clergymen and educated women, powerless and insignificant in the society of the time, together exerted a profound effect on the only areas open to their influence: the arts and literature. Women wrote books that idealized the very qualities that kept them powerless: timidity, piety, and a disdain for competition. Sentimental values that permeated popular literature continue to influence modern culture, preoccupied as it is with glamour, banal melodrama, and mindless consumption.

This new paperback edition, with a new Preface, will reach yet more readers with its persuasive and provocative theory. Richard Bernstein of The New York Times said: "Her remarkable scholarship is going to set the standard for a long time to come."

A modern classic, this book seeks to explain the values prevalent in today's mass culture by tracing them back to their roots in Victorian times.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Indispensable reading for . . . anybody of serious intelligence."—The New York Times

"An exciting, readable book." -The New Republic

"Admirably documented and ambitious . . . [The] examination of the perils of sentimentalism and the legacy it bequeathed modern culture is excellent."—Newsweek

Gerda Lerner
In 1977, the reviewer praised "the textural richness and methodological sophistication of this intellectual and literary history.
New York Times Book Review
Gerda Lerner
In 1977, the reviewer praised "the textural richness and methodological sophistication of this intellectual and literary history."
The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374525583
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/30/1998
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 548,937
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Ann Douglas, author of Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s, has taught American studies at Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia, where she is now Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature. She lives in New York City.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface to the 1998 Noonday Edition
Introduction: The Legacy of American Victorianism: The Meaning of Little Eva 3
Pt. 1 The Sentimentalization of Status
1 Clerical Disestablishment 17
2 Feminine Disestablishment 44
3 Ministers and Mothers: Changing and Exchanging Roles 80
Pt. 2 The Sentimentalization of Creed and Culture
4 The Loss of Theology: From Dogma to Fiction 121
5 The Escape from History: The Static Imagination 165
6 The Domestication of Death: The Posthumous Congregation 200
7 The Periodical Press: Arena for Hostility 227
Pt. 3 Protest: Case Studies in American Romanticism
8 Margaret Fuller and the Disavowal of Fiction 259
9 Herman Melville and the Revolt Against the Reader Epilogue 289
Epilogue 327
App. A Alphabetical Listing of Women and Ministers 330
App. B Chronological Listing of Women and Ministers 332
Notes 346
Index 389
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