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

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


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).


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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Works Cited

  1. Atherton, Gertrude. “Pearls of Loreto.” Before the Gringo Came Stories of Old California. New York: J. Slewing Tait, 1893. 1–43. Print.Google Scholar
  2. Bender, Bert. “The Teeth of Desire: The Awakening and The Descent of Man.” Kate Chopin—Updated Edition. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2007. 89–101. Print.Google Scholar
  3. Bloom, Harold. Kate Chopin—Updated Edition. New York: Infobasse Publishing, 2007. Print.Google Scholar
  4. Bloome, David, and Ann Egan-Robertson. “The Social Construction of Intertextuality in Classroom Reading and Writing Lessons”. Reading Research Quarterly 28.4 (October-November-December 1993): 304–33. JSTOR. Web. 30 November 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chopin, Kate. “A Pair of Silk Stockings.” Chopin Complete Novels and Stories. New York: The Library of America, 2002. 816–20. Print.Google Scholar
  6. ——. “A Respectable Woman.” Chopin Complete Novels and Stories. New York: The Library of America, 2002. 506–9. Print.Google Scholar
  7. ——. “Wiser than a God.” Chopin Complete Novels and Stories, Ed. Sandra M. Gilbert. New York: The Library of America, 2002. 660–9. Print.Google Scholar
  8. Christophersen, Bill. “Behind the White Veil: Self-Awareness in Hawthorne’s ‘Blithedale Romance.’” Modern Language Studies 12.2 (Spring 1982): 81–92. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 20 January 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dill, Elizabeth. “Angel of the House, Ghost of the Commune: Zenobia as Sentimental Woman in Blithedale Romance.” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 37.1 (Spring 2011): 62–87. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 2 January 2014.Google Scholar
  10. Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie. Ed. Donald Pizer. New York: WW. Norton, 1991. Print.Google Scholar
  11. Elkad-Lehman, Ilana. “Spinning a Tale: Intertextuality and Intertextual Aptitude.” Educational Studies in Language and Literature 5(2005): 39–56. Education Source Complete. Web. 28 December 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ewell, Barbara C. “Barbara C. Ewell on ‘A Pair of Silk Stockings’ and ‘Neg Creol.’” Kate Chopin A Study of the Short Fiction. Ed. Bernard Koloski. New York: Twayne Publishers An Imprint of Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1996. 141–4. Print.Google Scholar
  13. Harper, Frances Ellen Watkins. “The Two Offers.” A Brighter Coming Day: A Frances Ellen Watkins Harper READER. Edited and with an Introduction by Frances Smith Foster. New York: The Feminist Press at The City University of New York, 1990. 105–14. Print.Google Scholar
  14. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. New York: Penguin Books, 1986. Print.Google Scholar
  15. Koloski, Bernard. Kate Chopin A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne Publishers An Imprint of Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1996. Print.Google Scholar
  16. Kornhaber, Donna, and David Kornhaber. “Stage and Status: Theatre and Class in the Short Fiction of Kate Chopin.” Kate Chopin in the Twenty-First Century: New Critical Essays. Ed. Heather Ostman. New Castle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. 15–31. Print.Google Scholar
  17. Lauter, Paul. The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning. 2004. Print.Google Scholar
  18. Lemaster, Tracy. “Feminist Thing Theory in Sister Carrie.Studies in American Naturalism 4.1 (Summer 2009): 41–55. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 6 January 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Loranger, Carol S. “‘Character and Success’: Teaching Sister Carrie in the Context ofan Ongoing American Debate.” Dreiser Studi es 29.1/2 (1998): 74–84. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 6 January 2014.Google Scholar
  20. Martin, Elaine. “Intertextuality: An Introduction.” The Comparatist 35 (May 2011): 148–51. Humanities Index. Web. 30 November 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mills, Angela. “‘The Sweet Word,’ Sister: The Transformative Threat of Sisterhood and The Blithedale RomancerATQ 17.2 (June 2003): 97–121. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 3 January 2014.Google Scholar
  22. Mulford, Carla. “Writing Women in Early American Studies: On Canons, Feminist Critique, and the Work of Writing Women into History.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 26.1 (Spring 2007): 107–18. JSTOR. Web. 12 January 2014.Google Scholar
  23. Papke, Mary E. “Mary E. Papke on ‘The Story of an Hour.’” Kate Chopin A Study of the Short Fiction. Ed. Bernard Koloski. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996. 132–4. Print.Google Scholar
  24. Robinson, Lillian S. “Treason Our Text: Feminist Challenges to the Literary Canon.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 2.1 (Spring 1983): 83–98. JSTOR. Web. 12 January 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Toth, Emily. “Kate Chopin on Divine Love and Suicide: Two Rediscovered Articles.” American Literature 63.1 (March 1991): 115–21. JSTOR. Web. 26 November 2013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Weatherford, K. J. “Courageous Souls: Kate Chopin’s Women Artists.” American Studies in Scandinavia 26 (1994): 96–112. American Studies in Scandinavia Online. Web. 26 November 2013.Google Scholar
  27. Wolter, Jurgen. “Southern Hesters: Hawthorne’s Influence on Kate Chopin, Toni Morrison, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams.” Southern Quarterly 50.1 (Fall 2012): 24–41. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 13 December 2014.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Heather Ostman and Kate O’Donoghue 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia J. Sehulster

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations