Engaging Italy

American Women's Utopian Visions and Transnational Networks

By Etta M. Madden

Subjects: Literary Criticism, Women's Studies, Italian American Studies, Nineteenth-century Studies, History
Hardcover : 9781438488431, 342 pages, April 2022
Paperback : 9781438488424, 342 pages, October 2022

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Note on the Text


Part I: Portraits of Diversity

1. Backstories of Diversity

2. Vignettes of Diversity

3. Summer of the Roman Question: A Window on Transnational Networks

Part II: Circuits and Networks

4. Revising Daisy Miller: The Story of "Miss Jones"

5. "The Daily Ordinary": Language, Lodgings and Hostessing

6. Circulating People, Circulating Texts: Associational Life

Part III: Varieties of Utopian Experiences

7. Utopian Visions, Reform, and Religious Beliefs

8. Emily Bliss Gould: "Works and Wants"

9. Anne Hampton Brewster: A Catholic Correspondent Negotiates New Rome

10. Caroline Crane Marsh: "The Power of Doing a Great Service"

Coda: Residual Ripples

Appendix A: "To ____ ____."

Appendix B: "For Queen Anne"

List of Abbreviations

Traces literary and social connections among three American women navigating the changing political landscape of 1860s and '70s Italy.


Engaging Italy charts the intertwined lives and writings of three American women in Italy in the 1860s and '70s—journalist Anne Hampton Brewster (1818–92), orphanage and industrial school founder Emily Bliss Gould (1825–75), and translator Caroline Crane Marsh (1816–1901). Brewster, Gould, and Marsh did not follow their callings abroad so much as they found them there. The political and religious unrest they encountered during Italian Unification put their utopian visions of expatriate life to the test. It also prompted these women to engage these changes and take up their pens both privately and publicly. Though little-known today, their diaries, letters, poetry, and news accounts help to rewrite the story of American women abroad inherited from figures such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, and Henry James. Both feminist recovery project and collective biography, Engaging Italy contributes to the growing body of scholarship on transatlantic nineteenth-century women writers while focusing particular attention on the shared texts and ties linking Brewster, Gould, and Marsh. Etta M. Madden demonstrates the generative power of literary and social networks during moments of upheaval.

Etta M. Madden is Clif & Gail Smart Professor of English and Assistant Department Head at Missouri State University. As a recipient of a William J. Fulbright award, she served as a Senior Lecturer in American Literature at the University of Catania in Sicily. Her books include Eating in Eden: Food and American Utopias (coedited with Martha L. Finch); Bodies of Life: Shaker Literature and Literacies; and Selections from Eliza Leslie.


"Among the growing body of scholarship on the role of women in nineteenth-century transatlantic networks, Etta Madden's Engaging Italy deserves attention for its impressive, meticulous archival research in unearthing the lives and writings of three relatively unknown US women who inhabited the changing political landscape of Italy during the 1860s and 1870s … This well-documented study is a valuable addition to the understanding of the compounded cultural and political relations between the US and Italy in the nineteenth century from a refreshingly new perspective." — ALH Online Review

"Madden's book allows an unprecedented, close look at a particular slice of nineteenth-century society, the American community in Rome, which may now have been forgotten but deeply influenced Italian culture and left some tangible traces … Besides its obvious archival and scholarly importance, Madden's book succeeds in spreading the diffusive light of these women, who did more than their times expected of them." — Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

"Madden is a first-rate, meticulous scholar. While many readers will not be familiar with Gould, Marsh, and Brewster, Madden's accessible, lively prose and engaging storytelling bring these women to life and make the case for their significance in the larger context of nineteenth-century transatlanticism and transnational networks." — Whitney Womack Smith, coeditor of Race and Transatlantic Identities