The Trope of Women's Travel in American Literature
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Examines the subversive and constructive narrative of female journey in American literature, from the seventeenth century to the present.
Travel is the root metaphor for Western progress, a fact particularly evident in a colonizing and immigrant nation like the United States. Despite changing historical circumstances from one American epoch to another, men have generally been associated with adventurous movement and women with domestic stasis, a bias that has obscured recognition of a significant trope: the woman traveler throughout American literature.
Secret Journeys examines the subversive and constructive narrative of female journey from the seventeenth century to the present in such works as John Greenleaf Whittier's Snowbound, Mary Rowlandson's A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mary Rowlandson, Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs, Edith Wharton's Summer, Willa Cather's The Professor's House, Marilynne Robinson's Housekeeping, Eudora Welty's short fiction, and Elizabeth Bishop's poetry. In recognizing the figure of the woman traveler, Wesley produces new readings of canonical texts that subvert social and political assumptions in texts by men and construct alternative arrangements in texts by women.
Marilyn C. Wesley is Assistant Professor of English at Hartwick College. She is also the author of Refusal and Transgression in Joyce Carol Oates' Fiction.
"This book is unquestionably a significant contribution to the field of American literature. Extremely well written, it utilizes an impressively broad range of scholarship and contemporary theory, and is thoughtfully persuasive. Because the past few years have seen a decided revival of interest in travel writing, particularly by women, Wesley's study of the trope of travel appears at just the right time: we need an original, in-depth, scholarly, and lucidly presented reexamination of major works vis-à-vis this metaphor, and Marilyn Wesley has written it. All American literature scholars would benefit from Wesley's original views. " — Abby H. P. Werlock, St. Olaf College
"Wesley's claims and her close readings are engaging. Her criticism often persuaded me to re-read the texts she discussed. As an American literature teacher and scholar, I found the book quite useful. " — Gregory Eiselein, Kansas State University