Genres of Resistance: Western-American Womanhood and Authorship
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Genres of Resistance: Western-American Womanhood and Authorship traces a genealogy of diverse, Western-American women writers who play with dominant literary genres to recover the histories and narratives written over by the nation’s discourses of Manifest Destiny, westward expansion, and American exceptionalism. The project is predicated on Benedict Anderson’s argument in Imagined Communities that the nation is an invention and that an homogenous, continuous national identity is imagined and sustained through print capitalism, specifically the 18th-century novel and newspaper industry. The project recognizes that, as the American nation moves into the 19th and early-20th centuries, the literary marketplace undergoes dramatic shifts and changes just as the nation is expanding geographically and increasing its global presence. Thus, the project is concerned with how the late-19th and early-20th century women writers considered—María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Helen Hunt Jackson, Sui Sin Far, and an author this dissertation is introducing for the first time into critical discussions, Eva Rutland—use new genres (the short story and the travel essay) and new literary modes (sentimentalism, regionalism, and realism) as a means to speak back to the homogenizing efforts of dominant literary productions. Ultimately, the dissertation argues that the Western-American women writers considered in this project manipulate dominant literary genres to contest and compete for representative authority over the American West—its geography, its history, and its cultural and political identity.