English, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in AMERICAN LITERATURE 80:1 (March 2008), pp. 170-172. Copyright (c) Duke University Press. Used by permission.


Two books published in the 1980s had a deep influence on the study of Arnerican women novelists of the early republic and the antebellum era. Mary Kelley's Private Woman, Public Stage: Literary Domesticity in Nineteenth- Century America (1984) presented twelve popular women novelists as deeply conflicted about their role as public producers of culture. The chapters in Cathy Davidson's Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (1986) that treat women novelists and their readers as worthy of serious analysis significantly altered the course of scholarship on the early American novel. AngelaVietto clearly frames Women and Authorship in Revolutionary America as a response to the work of Davidson and subsequent scholars, asking: How would early American women's authorship look different if scholars did not focus so centrally on the novel and on print publication? What if manuscript circulation and print publication were placed on a continuum and forms other than the novel were included? Kelley does not frame Learning to Stand and Speak as a revision of her own Private Woman; indeed, the scope and the focus of her new project are different and much broader, extending back to the early republic and treating scores of educated women who left traces of their intellectual engagements in writing (both manuscript and print); nevertheless, Learning to Stand and Speak is likely to most interest literary historians for its revision of Private Woman.