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Home Fronts: Domesticity and Its Critics in the Antebellum United States

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Unlike studies of nineteenth-century culture that perpetuate a dichotomy of a public, male world set against a private, female world, Lora Romero’s Home Fronts shows the many, nuanced, and sometimes contradictory cultural planes on which struggles for authority unfolded in antebellum America. Romero remaps the literary landscape of the last century by looking at the operat Unlike studies of nineteenth-century culture that perpetuate a dichotomy of a public, male world set against a private, female world, Lora Romero’s Home Fronts shows the many, nuanced, and sometimes contradictory cultural planes on which struggles for authority unfolded in antebellum America. Romero remaps the literary landscape of the last century by looking at the operations of domesticity on the frontier as well as within the middle-class home and by reconsidering such crucial (if sometimes unexpected) sites for the workings of domesticity as social reform movements, African-American activism, and homosocial high culture. In the process, she indicts theories of the nineteenth century based on binarisms and rigidity while challenging models of power and resistance based on the idea that "culture" has the capacity to either free or enslave. Through readings of James Fenimore Cooper, Catherine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maria Stewart, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Romero shows how the politics of culture reside in local formulations rather than in essential and ineluctable political structures.


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Unlike studies of nineteenth-century culture that perpetuate a dichotomy of a public, male world set against a private, female world, Lora Romero’s Home Fronts shows the many, nuanced, and sometimes contradictory cultural planes on which struggles for authority unfolded in antebellum America. Romero remaps the literary landscape of the last century by looking at the operat Unlike studies of nineteenth-century culture that perpetuate a dichotomy of a public, male world set against a private, female world, Lora Romero’s Home Fronts shows the many, nuanced, and sometimes contradictory cultural planes on which struggles for authority unfolded in antebellum America. Romero remaps the literary landscape of the last century by looking at the operations of domesticity on the frontier as well as within the middle-class home and by reconsidering such crucial (if sometimes unexpected) sites for the workings of domesticity as social reform movements, African-American activism, and homosocial high culture. In the process, she indicts theories of the nineteenth century based on binarisms and rigidity while challenging models of power and resistance based on the idea that "culture" has the capacity to either free or enslave. Through readings of James Fenimore Cooper, Catherine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maria Stewart, and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Romero shows how the politics of culture reside in local formulations rather than in essential and ineluctable political structures.

33 review for Home Fronts: Domesticity and Its Critics in the Antebellum United States

  1. 4 out of 5

    sdw

    This book was really really smart and really well-written. It exemplified the best of the new historicist trend in literary criticism. The big picture intervention that Romero makes is to challenge the way thethe nineteenth century claim that women were taking over the male literary marketplace has been taken seriously by previous critics have (either to argue they were devaluing the classics or they were promoting a progressive domestic agenda). Instead, Romero asks how the concept of domestic This book was really really smart and really well-written. It exemplified the best of the new historicist trend in literary criticism. The big picture intervention that Romero makes is to challenge the way thethe nineteenth century claim that women were taking over the male literary marketplace has been taken seriously by previous critics have (either to argue they were devaluing the classics or they were promoting a progressive domestic agenda). Instead, Romero asks how the concept of domestic was fundamental even to male writers of the time? Another one of her arguments is that writing does not need to be either progressive or conservative. A text or an author can be progressive on some issues (gender) and yet say messed up racist stuff. Let me try to say that another way: The traditional narrative that women’s writing and domesticity threatened male literary classics during the 19th Century misreads how much male literary classics were invested in a gendered logic which separated the domestic from public or universal. One of her interventions is to argue against a tendency to believe that “culture” “traditions” or even individual texts either enslave or free. She argues that we must recognize the ways in which texts can be liberating in one aspect and enslaving in another. They don’t need to fall into a dominant paradigm of one side or the other. This is perhaps a dated argument these days, but one that I can appreciate. The center of the book is a series of inventive and well-written and engaging close readings of literary texts. She reads James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, Maria W. Stewart’s black nationalist speeches, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Throughout there is contextualization with similar texts of the period. I loved the way she combined biographical information on the writer, historical context, and close readings. That’s what I wish I could do!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Romero looks at how domesticity is portrayed in 19th century literature (and thus how it influenced individuals).

  3. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jen

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kim Wells

  6. 5 out of 5

    Cristy L. Bowlin

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bridgitte

  8. 4 out of 5

    Maia L.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Antonovich

  10. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Russell

  11. 4 out of 5

    March

  12. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

  13. 4 out of 5

    Shirleen R

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy Hanak

  15. 5 out of 5

    Christi Nogle

  16. 4 out of 5

    Marcy

  17. 5 out of 5

    Justine

  18. 5 out of 5

    Austin

  19. 5 out of 5

    Thea

  20. 4 out of 5

    Megan

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jessi

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathryne

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Strickland

  25. 5 out of 5

    Steph, The Academic-Errant

  26. 4 out of 5

    Zachary Graves

  27. 5 out of 5

    Martina

  28. 5 out of 5

    Prasanna

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mara Minion

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dana Resch

  31. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

  32. 4 out of 5

    James Hill Welborn III

  33. 4 out of 5

    Igrowastreesgrow

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