Academic Book, Ellen Montgomery, Feminism, George Washington, Jammer Talks About, Jane Tompkins, Joshua Jammer Smith, Literature, Novel, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction 1790-1860, Sentimental Novel, Susan Warner, The Life of George Washington, The Wide Wide World, Uncle Tom's Cabin, YouTube
After recording a video lecture for a former professor the bug just bit me again and I decided to film a third lecture, this time about the foundational novel The Wide, Wide World by Susan Warner. I say foundational because the novel started a literary movement known as the “Sentimental Novel” which included titles such as The Lamplighter, Macaria, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin. These novels were often best sellers, a fact which inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne, you know that obnoxious dude you had to read Junior Year of high school, to produce the now famous quote/complain about “those damn scribbling women.” Sentimental novels were looked up with suspicion by feminists and literary critics who felt the books were often too sappy or religiously dogmatic to have any real value.
Jane Tompkins, a noted feminist scholar, would argue against this in her book Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction 1790-1860. Tompkins argued that women authors were using the space they had to find their own identities and agency.
In The Wide, Wide World the protagonist begins reading The Life of George Washington, and exploring how Ellen comes to see Washington I try to see how Ellen uses this man to create her own sense of purpose and agency. Hope you enjoy:
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