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Plots and proposals: American women's fiction, 1850-90

Plots and proposals: American women's fiction, 1850-90

Tracey, Karen, 1961-

Boy meets girl. Boy proposes to girl. Girl refuses proposal. Then what? This provocative scenario provides the frame for a significant counter-tradition in popular nineteenth-century women's novels: the double-proposal plot, in which the heroine rejects and later accepts proposals from the same suitor. Exploring the American wing of this movement through the novels of Carolyn Hentz, Augusta Evans, Laura J. Curtis Bullard, E. D. E. N. Southworth, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Karen Tracey investigates how each of these writers is constrained by her historical circumstances and how she uses her fiction to critique those circumstances. Pioneered in Britain by Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the double-proposal plot dislodges the myth of Mr. Right and questions the all-powerful notions of true love and happily-ever-after. When the heroine rejects her suitor's initial proposal, she opens up the possibility of renegotiating the terms of the relationship and exploring alternative roles.;By considering two possible marriages between the same set of partners, the double-proposal plot interrogates the role of middle-class women in courtship and in public life as well as the quality of married life and the influence a woman potentially brings to it. Tracey charts the genre's evolution from novels that seek answers within renegotiated marriages to those that challenge the efficacy of marriage itself. Reconstructing some of the cultural circumstances that would have influenced the writing, publishing, and reading of the novels, "Plots and Proposals" examines how changing notions of love and romance both inform and are critiqued by this renegade fiction

Book. English.
Published Urbana : University of Illinois Press 2000
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Available at Main Library.

  • Main Library – One available in Lending 813.409/TRA

    Barcode Shelfmark Loan type Status
    02525011 Lending 813.409/TRA Standard Loan Available


Statement of responsibility: Karen Tracey
ISBN: 0252025237, 0252068394, 9780252025235, 9780252068393
Note: Includes bibliographical references (p. 187-196) and index.
Physical Description: ix, 206 p. ; 24 cm.
Subject: American fiction Women authors History and criticism.; Courtship in literature.; Women's rights in literature.; Sex role in literature.; Southern States In literature.; American fiction 19th century History and criticism.; Marriage in literature.; Women and literature United States History 19th century.; Feminism and literature United States History 19th century.


  1. Contents: The renegotiation of marriage in nineteenth-century fiction and culture
  2. Caroline Hentz's "little counterplot" in the Old South
  3. Augusta Evans : ambition and the refinement of the Southern double proposal
  4. Domesticating the "woman's rights woman" in Laura Curtis Bullard's and D. E. N. Southworth's Antebellum double-proposal novels
  5. Courtship in the arena of Civil War : Southworth's Britomarte, the man-hater
  6. Professional women and traditional wedlock : Elizabeth Stuart Phelps's narrative negotiations.