Date of Award

7-15-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Todd Thompson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christopher Kuipers, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Veronica Watson, Ph.D.

Abstract

Susan Warner, author of the bestselling novel The Wide, Wide World (1850), was among the first writers to be recovered by scholars dedicated to restoring to print the work of forgotten women authors. Yet although it has been over two decades since The Wide, Wide World was first reprinted, Susan Warner has still only been recovered in part. Though she composed over thirty novels in her lifetime, produced a children's magazine co-authored with her sister, and successfully negotiated the male-dominated publishing industry, the portrait of Warner presented by the majority of scholars is one of a demur and submissive recluse who wrote only didactic religious fiction and was otherwise uninvolved with the social and political issues of her time. In this study, I question how Warner has been represented by scholars over the last one hundred years. By critically examining several biographies and critical interpretations of Warner and her work composed first by relatives, then by literary historians, and finally by scholars of the recovery movement, I will trace how each effort to recover Warner resulted in a different portrait of her life and work. I will then advance my own biographical interpretation of Warner that stresses her status as a professional author and recognizes her contributions to social reform. In doing so, I hope to move beyond the accepted portrayal of Warner as merely an evangelical writer and to recognize her contributions to social issues such as abolitionism, female patriotism and education, and labor reform.

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