Faculty Bookshelf: Sharon Harris

Books by Sharon Harris

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Letters and Cultural Transformations in the United States, 1760-1860 (Routledge, 2016). Co-author with Theresa Strouth Gaul.

This volume illustrates the significance of epistolarity as a literary phenomenon intricately interwoven with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century cultural developments. Rejecting the common categorization of letters as primarily private documents, this collection of essays demonstrates the genre’s persistent public engagements with changing cultural dynamics of the revolutionary, early republican, and antebellum eras. Sections of the collection treat letters’ implication in transatlanticism, authorship, and reform movements as well as the politics and practices of editing letters. The wide range of authors considered include Mercy Otis Warren, Charles Brockden Brown, members of the Emerson and Peabody families, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Stoddard, Catherine Brown, John Brown, and Harriet Jacobs. The volume is particularly relevant for researchers in U.S. literature and history, as well as women’s writing and periodical studies. This dynamic collection offers scholars an exemplary template of new approaches for exploring an understudied yet critically important literary genre.

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A Feminist Reader: Feminist Thought from Sappho to Satrapi (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Editor, with Linda K. Hughes.

This four-volume anthology brings together the richest collection of feminist texts available with more 120 entries, most of them complete essays or chapters, arranged broadly chronologically. Readers can juxtapose 17th-century ‘New World’ feminist writing with European counterparts, historical with poststructuralist feminist writing, Asian with Anglophone voices and ‘difference feminism’ with universalist statements. Each text features an editorial headnote and annotation, while the general introduction sets feminism in its historical and global contexts. The anthology’s inclusion of multiple genres—letters and poems as well as philosophical or polemical prose—offers new possibilities for the study of genre and feminist discourse.

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Dr. Mary Walker: An American Radical (Rutgers University Press, 2009)

Nominated for the 2010 James Russell Lowell Award of the MLA, this biography steers away from a simplistic view and showcases Walker as a Medal of Honor recipient, examining her work as an activist, author, and Civil War surgeon, along with the many 19th-century issues she championed: political, social, medical, and legal reforms, abolition, temperance, gender equality, U.S. imperialism, and the New Woman. Rich in research and keyed to a new generation, Dr. Mary Walker captures its subject’s articulate political voice, public self, and the realities of an individual whose ardent beliefs in justice helped shape the radical politics of her time.

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Rebecca Harding Davis’s Stories of the Civil War Era (University of Georgia Press, 2009). Editor, with Robin Cadwallader.

This is the first anthology of Rebecca Harding Davis’s Civil War-era work. The ten stories gathered here show Davis to be an acute observer of the conflicts and ambiguities of a divided nation and position her as a major transitional writer between romanticism and realism. Capturing the fluctuating cultural environment of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras, the stories explore such issues as racial prejudice and slavery, the loneliness and powerlessness of women, and the effects of postwar market capitalism on the working classes. Davis’s characters include soldiers and civilians, men and women, young and old, blacks and whites. Instead of focusing (like many writers of the period) on major conflicts and leaders, Davis takes readers into the intimate battles fought on family farms and backwoods roads, delving into the minds of those who experienced the destruction on both sides of the conflict.

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Letters and Cultural Transformations in the United States, 1760-1860 (Ashgate Publishing, 2009). Editor, with Theresa Strouth Gaul.This volume illustrates the significance of epistolarity as a literary phenomenon intricately interwoven with 18th- and 19th-century cultural developments. Rejecting the common categorization of letters as primarily private documents, this collection of essays demonstrates the genre’s persistent public engagements with changing cultural dynamics of the revolutionary, early republican, and antebellum eras. Sections of the collection treat letters’ implication in transatlanticism, authorship, and reform movements as well as the politics and practices of editing letters. The wide range of authors considered include Mercy Otis Warren, Charles Brockden Brown, members of the Emerson and Peabody families, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Stoddard, Catherine Brown, John Brown, and Harriet Jacobs. The volume is particularly relevant for researchers in U.S. literature and history, as well as women’s writing and periodical studies. This dynamic collection offers scholars an exemplary template of new approaches for exploring an understudied yet critically important literary genre.

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Mercy Otis Warren: Selected Letters (University of Georgia Press, 2009). Editor, with Jeffrey Richards.

This first major collection of letters by the Revolutionary-era woman writer Mercy Otis Warren was nominated for the 2010 Morton N. Cohen Award of the MLA. This volume gathers more than one hundred letters—most of them previously unpublished. Warren, whose works include a three-volume history of the American Revolution as well as plays and poems, was a major literary figure of her era and one of the most important American women writers of the eighteenth century. Her correspondents included Martha and George Washington, Abigail and John Adams, and Catharine Macaulay.

Until now, Warren’s letters have been published sporadically, in small numbers, and mainly to help complete the collected correspondence of some of the famous men to whom she wrote. This volume addresses that imbalance by focusing on Warren’s letters to her family members and other women. As they flesh out our view of Warren and correct some misconceptions about her, the letters offer a wealth of insights into eighteenth-century American culture, including social customs, women’s concerns, political and economic conditions, medical issues, and attitudes on child rearing.

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The Awakening (Bedford-St. Martin’s, 2007). Editor and Introduction.

Kate Chopin’s classic novel.

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Executing Race: Early American Women’s Narratives of Race, Society, and the Law (Ohio State University Press, 2005)

Nominated for the 2006 Louis Gottschalk Prize, an ASECS award for an outstanding critical study of the eighteenth century. Executing Race examines the multiple ways in which race, class, and the law impacted women’s lives in the 18th century and, equally important, how women sought to change legal and cultural attitudes in this volatile period.

Through an examination of infanticide cases, Harris reveals how conceptualizations of women, especially their bodies and their legal rights, evolved over the course of the 18th century. Early in the century, infanticide cases incorporated the rhetoric of the witch trials. However, at mid-century, a few women, especially African American women, began to challenge definitions of “bastardy” (a legal requirement for infanticide), and by the end of the century, women were rarely executed for this crime as the new nation reconsidered illegitimacy in relation to its own struggle to establish political legitimacy. Against this background of legal domination of women’s lives, Harris exposes the ways in which women writers and activists negotiated legal territory to invoke their voices into the radically changing legal discourse. Her recovery of little-known writings by well-known writers, along with the recovery of radical women authors of the Revolutionary period, offers new insights into women’s writings, race relations, and the construction of nationalism in the 18th century.

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Periodical Literature in Eighteenth-Century America (University of Tennessee Press, 2004). Contributor and editor, with Mark L. Kamrath.

Between the early 1700s, when periodical publications struggled, and the late 1790s, when print media surged ahead, print culture was radically transformed by a liberal market economy, innovative printing and papermaking techniques, improved distribution processes, and higher literacy rates, meaning that information, particularly in the form of newspapers and magazines, was available more quickly and widely to people than ever before. These changes generated new literary genres and new relationships between authors and their audiences. This collection of essays delves into many of these unique magazines and newspapers and their intersections as print media, as well as into what these publications reveal about the cultural, ideological, and literary issues of the period; the resulting research is interdisciplinary, combining the fields of history, literature, and cultural studies. The essays explore many evolving issues in an emerging America: scientific inquiry, race, ethnicity, gender, and religious belief all found voice in various early periodicals. The differences between the pre- and post-Revolutionary periodicals and performativity are discussed, as are vital immigration, class, and settlement issues. Political topics, such as the emergence of democratic institutions and dissent, the formation of early parties, and the development of regional, national, and transnational cultural identities are also covered. Using digital databases and recent poststructural and cultural theories, this book returns us to the periodicals archive and regenerates the ideological and discursive landscape of early American literature in provocative ways; it will be of value to anyone interested in the crosscurrents of early American history, book history, and cultural studies.

Blue Pencils and Hidden Hands: Women Editing Periodicals, 1830-1910 (Northeastern University Press, 2004). Editor.
This collection of original critical essays builds on a growing body of scholarship to explore the varied editorial practices of women editors from diverse race, class, and ethnic backgrounds. Examining a broad spectrum of periodicals, including school newspapers, children’s and fashion magazines, and activist political journals, the contributors delve into three major areas: women apprentices in magazine publishing; women who drew on their editorial experience to create other forms of literary, artistic, and activist expressions; and women who established careers as editors. Enriching the essays are selections from the periodicals themselves, revealing how Ann S. Stephens, Frances Wright, Pauline Hopkins, Kate Field, Zitkala-Sa, and others wielded their editorial pen to shape public opinion about such issues as woman suffrage, abolitionism, and domestic violence.

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Women’s Early American Historical Narratives (Penguin, 2003). Editor, Introduction, and Notes.

This fascinating collection presents a rare look at women writers’ first-hand perspectives on early American history. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries many women authors began to write historical analysis, thereby taking on an essential role in defining the new American Republicanism. Like their male counterparts, these writers worried over the definition and practice of both public and private virtue, human equality, and the principles of rationalism. In contrast to male authors, however, female writers inevitably addressed the issue of inequality of the sexes. This collection includes writings that employ a wide range of approaches, from straightforward reportage to poetical historical narratives, from travel writing to historical drama, and even accounts in textbook format, designed to provide women with exercises in critical thinking-training they rarely received through their traditional education.

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Rebecca Harding Davis: Writing Cultural Autobiography (Vanderbilt University Press, 2001). Editor, with Janice M. Lasseter.

19th-century fiction writer and journalist Rebecca Harding Davis (1831-1910) is best known for her novella Life in the Iron Mills. Its publication in 1861 launched her stunning fifty-year career that yielded a corpus of some 500 published works, including short stories, novels, novellas, sketches, and social commentary. Davis’s unique mode of writing anticipated literary realism twenty years before the time usually associated with its genesis. Today, her life and work continue to figure prominently in the study of American literature and culture. Rebecca Harding Davis: Writing Cultural Autobiography is the annotated edition of her 1904 autobiography, Bits of Gossip, and a previously unpublished family history written for her children. The memoirs are not traditional autobiography; rather, they are Davis’s perspective on the extraordinary cultural changes that occurred during her lifetime and of the remarkable and sometimes scandalous people who shaped the events. She provides intimate portraits of the famous people she knew, including Emerson, Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Ann Stephens, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Horace Greeley. Equally important are Davis’s commentaries on the political activists of the Civil War era, from Abraham Lincoln to Booker T. Washington, from the “daughters of the Southland” to Lucretia Mott, from Henry Ward Beecher to William Still. Whereas Bits of Gossip expands our understanding of Davis as cultural critic and observer of life, the family history offers new information on Davis’s early life and the influences that led her to become one of the nineteenth century’s pioneering Realists and cultural commentators. Together they bring a human voice to the nineteenth century American milieu.

American Women Prose Writers, 1870-1920. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 221 (Gale, 2000). )Editor.
Essays on American prose writers during a period marked by enormous cultural change in a short period of time. Like female sexuality, issues of race and ethnicity were some of the most volatile themes addressed in women’s prose writings of this period. Some of the many ethnic and religious groups that emerged as significant literary voices were Jewish, Native American, African-American, Euroamerican, and Asian.

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American Women Writers to 1800: An Oxford Anthology (Oxford University Press, 1996). Editor.

American Women Writers to 1800 advances our knowledge of early American culture. Including works by more than ninety women, many of whom have never before been published, this ambitious anthology captures the cultural and individual diversity of women’s experiences in early America. It both complements and extends earlier studies of colonial and Revolutionary America, with writings that observe the natural features and resources of the “New World”; the proliferation of religious movements; racial relations between Native Americans, African Americans, and European settlers; and patriotic and loyalist sympathies during the Revolutionary years. Selections also confront distinctly feminist issues, focusing on women’s education; the psychological complexities of girlhood, marriage and childbirth; sexuality; the legal status of women; and the rise of feminist philosophies at the end of the eighteenth century. Along with better known Massachusetts writers such as Bradstreet, Rowlandson, and Knight, this collection presents works by authors from other New England, mid-Atlantic, and southern colonies, by African American and Native American women, and by women who explored the frontier regions. An impressive variety of genres is represented, with extensive selections of memoirs, letters, diaries, poetry, captivity narratives, Native American narratives, essays, sermons, autobiographies, novels, dramas, and scientific and political tracts. Brief biographical introductions to each author, explanatory footnotes, and a comprehensive index and bibliography impress modern scholarship upon this valuable literary collection and offer fertile ground for a radical rethinking of early American women’s lives and writings, while challenging our assumptions regarding early America itself.

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Selected Writings of Judith Sargent Murray. Women Writers in English to 1830 Series (Oxford University Press, 1995). Editor.

Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and spent most of her life in New England, where her extraordinary intellectual achievements gained recognition in literary and political circles of the late eighteenth century. Author of “On the Equality of the Sexes” (1790), Murray was one of America’s earliest feminist writers and a gifted satirist. She was one of the first women in America to have her own literary column (in Massachusetts Magazine), and the first American to have a play produced on the Boston stage. In addition to writing essays, plays, poetry, and fiction, Murray was a prolific letter writer. Throughout her long career, she focused on the themes of women’s education, history, and contributions to American culture. In 1798, one hundred of her essays from Massachusetts Magazine were collected and published in a single volume, The Gleaner. The Selected Writings features Murray’s “On the Equality of the Sexes” and other essays from The Gleaner; selected correspondence; a play, The Traveller Returned; and Murray’s only novel, The Story of Margaretta. This latest addition to the Women Writers in English series reintroduces an important early feminist voice, one that should engage the intellect and imagination of readers both inside and outside the academy.

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Redefining the Political Novel: American Women Writers 1797-1901. (University of Tennessee Press, 1995). Editor and contributor.

Nominated for the Susan Koppelman Award, 1995. While critical studies of the American political novel date from the 1920s, such considerations of the genre have failed, whether wittingly or unwittingly, to recognize works by women. The exclusion is usually based on a distinction between “social” novels and “political” novels, and the result is an understanding of the “political” as a largely male province. In this thought-provoking collection of essays, the contributors seek not simply to add works by women to the canon of political novels but, rather, to demand a conceptual revolution – one that questions the very precepts on which the canon is based. This redefinition of the political novel takes many factors into account, including gender, race, and class and their relation to our most basic conceptions of literary and aesthetic value.

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Rebecca Harding Davis and American Realism (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991)

From the late 1860s until her death in 1910, Rebecca Harding Davis was one of the best-known writers in America. She broke into print as a young woman in the 1860s with “Life in the Iron Mills,” which established her as one of the pioneers of American realism. She developed a literary theory of the “commonplace” nearly two decades before William Dean Howels shaped his own version of the concept. Yet, in spite of her importance to the literary and popular culture of her time, she has been, for the most part, ignored by scholars. Rebecca Harding Davis and American Realism helps to change that.