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In the twentieth century, women's writing travels a course in which each generation of female characters progresses toward vital and independent lives, free from society's traditional limitations. From Lily Bart's death, hastened by her resistance to society's marital expectations, in Edith Wharton's House of Mirth to Sethe's escape from slavery into selfhood in Toni Morrison's Beloved , women writing fiction in the twentieth century created textual reflections of women's positions in American culture.

The suffrage movement, and the involvement of women in surrounding political movements such as socialism and the temperance movement, inspired a particular genre of writing that included both creative and political texts which examined the issues and problems facing women at the turn of the century. In The Traffic in Women , an essay published in Anarchism and Other Essays , Emma Goldman views prostitution as a larger trope for the oppression of women in a capitalistic society.

Elizabeth Robins's play Votes for Women produced in and her novel The Convert portray heroines rejecting marriage proposals and undergoing abortions at a time when abortions were both scandalous and illegal, thus refusing domestic expectations for women to maintain their separate and equal place in the world. The autobiography also became a popular form of writing for women. Written by women such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice James, autobiographies exposed the private thoughts and feelings of women at a time when the public expression of dissatisfaction by women was taboo.

Other women writers interested in exploring the social situation of women did so through utopian fiction, often envisioning women living in a world free from gender constrictions. Charlotte Perkins Gilman expressed her yearnings for women's equality in Herland , a utopian novel in which an all-female society is capable of reproducing without men and of building and maintaining a complex community. Through the genres of regionalism and realism, women writers concentrated on the domestic details of women's lives in order to explore the powerful relationship between women's development and the society that created them.

In regionalism, women established a congruous, and sometimes utopistic, relationship with the land as their thoughts, feelings, and struggles were reflected in the natural world around them.

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Heroines in realist novels were often set adrift in cityscapes, their fates tied to the whims of capitalism and patriarchal control. Women writers of regionalism and realism commonly used romantic and domestic plots to explicate not only women's position in the home, but in the world at large. Writers of realism attempted to depict life in an objective manner and created stories that often focused on the details of everyday life.

Edith Wharton's novels concentrate on upper-class women confined by the expectations imposed on them by a materialistic and acquisitive society. In her novels The House of Mirth , Custom of the Country and The Age of Innocence , Wharton portrays wealthy New York City society and how, at the turn of the century, this society created a generation of women, indulged and sheltered, who are disconnected from the world beyond tea parties, balls, and dressmakers. Wharton condemns the society for making these women ornamental and useless, while she simultaneously depicts them as sabotaging themselves through an acceptance of the definition of women as decorative objects.

As America became an increasingly large and complicated nation, interest grew in how Americans living in different parts of the country talked, ate, and lived. Women regionalist writers, whether their narratives focused on the South, East, or West, wrote of women's domestic lives with a specificity and complexity that has been overlooked. Wilkins Freeman's A New England Nun and Other Stories capture the New England landscape in exquisite detail, rendering a world of stoic women who live in a chosen state of often blissful isolation. Kate Chopin, Ellen Glasgow, and Grace King were all southerners who anchored their stories in the southern landscape.

Both King and Chopin, in the subtle and complex stories, The Little Convent Girl and Desiree's Baby , respectively, confront the issues of race and gender by delineating the convoluted nature of miscegenation, racial categories, and self-definition in the Deep South. Ellen Glasgow's novels, such as Virginia and Barren Ground , capture the South on the cusp of change from a rural, agriculturally based society to a modern, mechanized one. Glasgow dramatizes southern women's struggle to escape the claustrophobic, patriarchal social code that historically dominated southern life.

Austin rejects the names given to the places she visits, creating her own names for these sites and thus personalizing the landscape and symbolically blending herself inextricably with the earth. The heroines of Willa Cather's O Pioneers! African-American women at the turn of the twentieth century were also involved in writing about the world around them. Alice Dunbar-Nelson's short stories, published at the turn of the century, helped establish the short story genre within the tradition of African-American literature. In Pauline E. Hopkins published Contending Forces: Though the novel's framework is based on the traditional tropes of domestic and historical romance, Hopkins provides a startling account of bourgeois African-American life and offers the domestic drama, long the staple of white women writers, as a model of resistance to racism.

Women of other ethnicities and races also wrote at the turn of the twentieth century. Bonnin combined American storytelling techniques, such as the romantic plot, with Native American legends and contemporary native culture at a time when Indians were largely absent from the American cultural landscape.

Mary Antin, a Jewish immigrant from Czarist Russia, introduced an important addition to American ethnic minority women's fiction: Antin's From Plotzk to Boston and The Promised Land both present the experiences of a woman eager to integrate herself successfully into American culture and offer stories of resistance to typical constructions of femininity.

Antin writes passionately of the importance of higher education and self-reliance for all American women. As the writing in the last decades of the nineteenth and the first decades of the twentieth century shows, women were no longer content to remain silent about their dissatisfaction with their roles in the world. Political tracts, realistic renderings of New York City society, and carefully crafted depictions of the Nebraskan prairie often covertly express women's desires for sexual equality, social recognition, and self-determinism.

The first decade of the twentieth century was marked by the tumult of technological and industrial innovation. Many Americans hailed these revolutions as the push the country needed to truly come alive as a nation. However, some American artists and writers saw a dark side to this mechanical modernity. For these writers the assembly line, mechanized industrial machinery, and the ability to record and play back music and human voices, project images on a screen, and traverse huge distances were the result of technological innovations that had the power to permanently disconnect human beings from each other.

Many women, in contrast, faced changes in the world with enthusiasm. The genre of writing deemed modernism emphasized a radical redefining of literary style, syntax, and subject matter. Modernists sought to unhook language from its traditional meanings and definitions and to push the form of storytelling beyond its traditionally rigid constructions. Because this new genre demolished traditional cultural hierarchies and artistic assumptions, it allowed women to rise to the fore of literary creation.

Long left out of mainstream American culture, women writers anxiously embraced newly emerging forms of poetry and fiction as a way to best capture the unique experience of being a woman in modern America.

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This woman's sentence was not only created through the fresh construction of language but also through newly discovered subjects. Modernist women wrote of lesbianism and sexual freedom while rejecting domesticity, and in the process shattered all traditions in women's writing. Women embraced a new poetic ideal, infusing their poems with challenging language and using form itself as a medium in which to express literary and cultural resistance. The poets Louise Bogan and Amy Lowell dedicated much of their poetry to the issues of modern womanhood.

In her poem, Women , Bogan exhorted women to stop living as if they had no wilderness in them. One of Amy Lowell's most striking poems, The Sisters , is a long meditation on the silence that surrounds female poetics:. Hilda Doolittle, better known as H.

Modeling Minority Women: Heroines in African and Asian American Fiction

Her poem, Eurydice , , considered to be one of H. Elinor Wylie's poetry, the most successful of which was collected in Nets to Catch the Wind , strikes a balance between the modernist austerity of technique and a delicate evocation of the natural world. Wylie's pessimistic stance on the modern world is marked by her recurrent attention to the theme of feminine alienation and exile.


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Wylie influenced poets like Edna St. Vincent Millay, whose poetry often takes a backseat to the mythology surrounding Millay herself. Her ethereal beauty, red hair, and green eyes embodied the mythical flapper of the Jazz Age. Millay's poetry, though at times dark and reflective, nonetheless most often celebrates sexual and personal independence. Her collection of poetry, Second April , features Millay's most innovative contributions to modernist verse: Millay revitalized the traditional sonnet by removing the female muse as subject and replacing her with a male beloved who becomes the focus of sensual love.

Standing in opposition to Millay's sensuality are the poems of Marianne Moore, whose poetic aesthetic is marked by a dedication to compression of language and image and an extraordinary attention to a singular object. Moore often focused on animals, as in the poem The Jerboa , emphasizing the vast lessons couched in a tiny, particular entity. Incorporating already-published materials into her poems—magazine articles, newspaper clippings, advertising slogans—through the use of quotation marks, Moore creates a powerful pastiche in which a world of writing speaks both to and through her.

Using quotation and endnotes as a poetic technique, Moore successfully engages the readers in the text, casting them as cocreators of the poem. Thus, Moore's work represents a communal or meeting space where Moore dually instructs the reader while exposing the construction behind her lessons. Women who wrote modernist prose experimented with language as much as their sisters who wrote poetry.

Their new literary approaches stand in stark contrast to the novels written by women at the beginning of the century, which often featured a standard, linear narrative and presented women mostly in domestic and romantic entanglements that could only covertly express women's issues and desires. Modernist fiction freed the female character from operating only in this domestic sphere.

No longer bound by its constraints, modernist women writers used the newly emerging literary forms to critique directly domesticity, traditional love relationships, and the trap capitalism often set for the women who decided that being modern meant being a consumer. Gertrude Stein is cited more often than any other woman writer as the leader of the female branch of the modernist movement.

She eschewed all literary expectations as she sought to release language from its common meanings, remove linear time from the narrative, and reinvent the reader's relationship to the text. Stein's prose poems in Tender Buttons fracture the totems of domesticity teapots, cakes, freshly washed laundry into multifaceted word pictures, symbolically deleting the domestic simplicity of these items and infusing them with feminine sensuality, thus redefining these common words and images for her readers.

The most significant work of Djuna Barnes, a reclusive yet influential member of the modernist movement, is Nightwood , which explores a turbulent love affair between two women. It is also a dense and complicated text redolent with grotesque imagery, metaphysical speculation about the relationship between body and spirit, and an exuberant exploration of language.

Thus, in Nightwood , Barnes explodes the traditional romantic plot, modernizing it not only by focusing on lesbian characters but also by narrating this transgressive love story in experimental language and narrative form. Katherine Anne Porter's short stories often deal with women who are torn between a desire for traditional domesticity and a yearning for an independent life. The stories of Pale Horse, Pale Rider highlight the elegant and controlled style of Porter that embodies a tension between the author's ironic distance and her close connection with her characters, who struggle for personal freedom.

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Dorothy Parker's short stories, poems, and criticism are often remembered for their humor and dark, sardonic edge. Like Porter, Parker exposes the moment of discovery of self, but for Parker this moment is more often disappointing than revelatory. Her story, The Big Blonde , best represents Parker's interest, often comically rendered, in the disjunction between outward appearances and inward feelings. Eudora Welty combined a sharp sense of humor with a precise evocation of her native Mississippi landscape.

Her first collection of fiction, A Curtain of Green, and Other Stories , is marked not only by humor but also by the precision of metaphor, a perfect rendering of southern idiom, and a simplicity of language that often belies the complicated undercurrents running below the text. Like turn-of-the-century regionalist writers, Welty often used the domestic drama as a starting point of her critique of American culture; however, her mythological symbols, the often nonlinear shape of her narrative, and her focus on the underdogs of society allows her work to resonate beyond the borders of her region.

Women writing modernist fiction pushed the genre of women's fiction beyond previously established boundaries. The change was not only in form, but also content. As women in American society were leading increasingly public lives, the size and shape of women's worlds began to expand. Hebbar, electronic resource represents a specific, individual, material embodiment of a distinct intellectual or artistic creation found in University of Missouri-Kansas City.

This item is available to borrow from 4 library branches. Creator Hebbar, Reshmi J. Publication New York, Routledge, Label Modeling minority women: Hebbar, electronic resource Instantiates Modeling minority women: Hebbar, electronic resource Publication New York, Routledge, Bibliography note Includes bibliographical references p. Library Locations Map Details. The student resources previously accessed via GarlandScience. Studies in Asian Americans.

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