On Teaching Harriette Simpson Arnow

By Locklear, Erica Abrams | Appalachian Heritage, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

On Teaching Harriette Simpson Arnow


Locklear, Erica Abrams, Appalachian Heritage


When I began doctoral study in English at Louisiana State University in 2003, I thought I knew a little something about Appalachian literature. I had read James Still, Lee Smith, Robert Morgan, and several other mountain writers, and I was vaguely familiar with a handful of other related sources, like Joyce Dyer's collection, Bloodroot: Reflections on Place by Appalachian Women Writers. Then I took a Southern literature seminar with John Lowe who, during one of our conversations about Appalachian literature, offhandedly remarked that he really loved Harriette Simpson Arnow's The Dollmaker. Before that day, I had never heard of Arnow or any of her works. Looking back on that conversation now, I wonder how this was possible.

After my class ended, I read The Dollmaker and was astounded. I remember being completely enthralled by the story in general, but more particularly I admired Gertie's perseverance, empathized with Reuben and Cassie's longing to return home, loathed Mrs. Whittle's treatment of Reuben, and wanted to think more deeply about how Arnow portrayed the identity conflicts that ensued after the family moved to Detroit. I decided to write about it in my dissertation, and later in my first book. I was similarly moved by Arnow's other novels, especially Hunter's Horn. As I learned more about her work, I became increasingly confused as to why she is now read so infrequently by academics, students, and mainstream readers. Upon further investigation, I learned that The Dollmaker won wide critical acclaim during its time and was nominated for the National Book Award in 1955, losing to William Faulkner's The Fable (Eckley 44). Twenty-three years later, in 1978, Tillie Olsen lamented that, as a woman's "book of great worth, [The Dollmaker suffers] the death of being unknown, or at best a peculiar eclipsing" (40). Considering that the novel tells a powerful story about Appalachian out-migration and the consequences of moving from an agrarian society to an industrial one, all while dealing with issues related to education, gender, and so much more, the "eclipsing" Olsen notes is peculiar, indeed.

When I talk about Arnow's work with fellow academics, I often hear similar explanations of why they have chosen not to teach her work in their courses. They usually tell me that while they applaud novels like The Dollmaker, teaching such a long work of fiction seems overwhelming at best and impossible at worst. But in this brief contribution to a longer reflection on Arnow, I want to contest that belief and argue for the inclusion of novels like The Dollmaker on course syllabi for undergraduate and graduate students alike.

Certainly The Dollmaker would make a great novel selection for a course on American or Appalachian literature, as it would for a class that explores issues of migration, industrialization, unionization, and labor struggles in general.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

On Teaching Harriette Simpson Arnow
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.