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American Refusals: A Continuum of “I Prefer Not Tos” as Articulated in the Work of Chopin, Hawthorne, Harper, Atherton, and Dreiser

  • Patricia J. Sehulster
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Part of the American Literature Readings in the Twenty-First Century book series (ALTC)

Abstract

American history reverberates with refusals: I prefer not to…follow British rule… live within a prescribed social class… practice one, dictated religion… live any other way than freely, individually, and equally. American literature has reflected this rebellious reinvention through a myriad of voices. As teachers, we must lead our students to seeing the interconnectedness of those voices. As Kristeva has noted, “any text is the absorption and transformation of another” (qtd. Martin 148); as such, discovering intertextuality requires “attention to context—to what has gone before and to the ongoing conversation” (Bloome and Egan-Robertson 31). In asking our students to seek these interconnections, we expand the texts themselves and lead students to metacognitive processes (Elkad-Lehman 40). While Bloome and Egan-Robertson would have us believe that cultural rules exist for what texts can be related and therefore exclude certain sets of texts (312), I contend they err in this premise, and I use as my example here several not often related authors and their texts, spanning a 50–year period: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance (1852); Frances Ellen Watkins Harper’s “The Two Offers” (1859); Gertrude Atherton’s “Pearls of Loreto” (1893); Kate Chopin’s “Wiser Than a God” (1889), “A Respectable Woman” (1894), and “A Pair of Silk Stockings” (1896); and Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (1900).

Keywords

American Literature Metacognitive Process Sexual Mores Sexist Ideology Mechanical Impulse 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Heather Ostman and Kate O’Donoghue 2015

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  • Patricia J. Sehulster

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