Document Type



American novelists writing in the new Republic contributed to a collective cultural effort to create a new written voice. Writers in the new nation aimed to develop a style of writing distinct from the contemporary European conventions, one that would reflect American ideals and society. Though increasing in popularity during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, novels and fictional works received an inauspicious stigma that marked the works, authors, and often even readers of the genre. Twentieth-century scholars of the early American novel denounced the genre as simply melodramatic romantic work that would not improve the intellect of the new Republic. Because of this assumption, which I argue is false, the early American women novelists have been largely ignored by scholars in American literary studies. Revisiting these novels which were overlooked for most of the 20th century, specifically novels of seduction and domestic fiction, allows for a rejoinder to this dismissive argument. These novelists not only contributed to forming a new American voice, but revisioned femininity in the changing Republic through subtle yet complex portrayals of American women in a changing society. An exploration of the position of female voice and the communication among characters in early American novels both illustrates the shared experience of womanhood in the founding nation, and reveals these authors questioning the limited mobility caused by the social constructs of the time.



Thesis Comittee

Dr. Ann Brunjes, Thesis Advisor

Dr. Emily Field, Committee Member

Dr. John Kucich, Committee Member

Copyright and Permissions

Original document was submitted as an Honors Program requirement. Copyright is held by the author.