This exhibition presents research produced in an upper-level seminar offered by the English & Literature Department and taught by Todd Goddard, Assistant Professor of English. The class, titled "'Scribbling Women': Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers," focused on a range of authors and texts from the early nineteenth century to the Civil War. Throughout the semester, students in the class conducted on-line research in digital-archives and elsewhere on a writer of their choosing. Students then wrote biographies and plot synopses and provided information about historical context and the reception of specific works. In many instances, students discovered rare images and sometimes hard-to-find information about these writers' lives and works. The few original letters and books in the exhibit belong to a private collection.
The title of the exhibit, "Scribbling Women," comes from a well-known comment made by Nathaniel Hawthorne, who in January of 1855 complained to his publisher that women writers were diminishing his chances at publication and of reaching a larger audience. "America," he wrote, "is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success . . . " Unfortunately, Hawthorne's comment reflected and reinforced the dismissive attitude of many literary critics (most of the men) toward the works of nineteenth-century women writers as not serious, simply sentimental, and too popular. As a result, many women writers were overlooked for much of the twentieth century. Recently, though, critics have begun to recover and re-discover the lives and works of many "lost" women writers. This exhibit seeks to contribute to this important project. Although you may be familiar with some or all of these writers, we hope that you find some pleasant surprises.
~ Todd Goddard