Degree Year

1984

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

Sandra Zagarell

Keywords

Morgesons, Elizabeth Stoddard, Gender, Genre

Abstract

Elizabeth Barstow Stoddard's work received little public attention or critical acclaim during her lifetime. Only now, more than a hundred years after her best work was completed, has Stoddard begun to find an enthusiastic audience. Stoddard wanted badly the success which eluded her, yet she was not willing to sacrifice her intellectual and artistic integrity in order to sell books. She had only contempt for the countless women writers of her day, "the tribe of intellectual gardeners and vegetable growers," who gained widespread popularity with their frothy, ornate, and romantic fiction. She wanted to be seen as a consequential and powerful author-- recognition that was characteristically ceded only by men to other men. Stoddard was an outsider who looked on the inner circle with a mixture of envy, distaste, admiration, and ironic distance. In several columns written for the Daily Alta California, Stoddard focuses on the role of the serious female artist or intellectual as a "valiant" outsider who must struggle to enter the "domain appropriated by men to themselves." That struggle to be accepted is characterized as warlike: "Men are polite to the woman, and contemptuous to the intellect. They do not allow women to enter their intellectual arena to do battle with them..." In a letter from 1856 Stoddard sheds light on her own adversarial relationship as a woman writer to the prevailing -- male -- standards: The Literary Female is abroad, and the souls of literary men are tried. I am afraid to think of writing a book, and only intend to keep up a guerilla kind of warfare by sending out odds and ends. If Stoddard's early poems and short stories were "guerilla warfare," small covert forays into hostile territory, the first novel would express an ended, although no less subtle, attack on male literary formulations.

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