Reforming Fictions: Native, African, and Jewish American Women's Literature and Journalism in the Progressive Era

By Carol J. Batker | Go to book overview

Introduction

Women's political activism profoundly influenced their writing in the early twentieth century. Reforming Fictions recovers the enabling role reform work, in particular, played for women writers. I argue that political networks provided the inspiration and the opportunity for women's journalistic and literary publishing. Many women writers built their careers on the political-journalistic foundation reconstructed here. By considering these overlooked origins of women's writing, I develop a critical model that also makes visible cultural exchange among Native, African, and Jewish American women. A wide range of reform politics taken up in women's journalism shaped the preoccupations, language, and domestic form of women's fiction in these communities.

Often seen as having a direct and didactic impulse, journalism has been read apart from the self-conscious and literary preoccupations of the modernist period. An unfortunate consequence of this splitting of interests has been to oversimplify women's writing in the Progressive Era and to overlook affinities among women writers. Building on current criticism, which rejects the opposition between aesthetic and political concerns, Reforming Fictions takes up early periodical journalism as a dialogic and elaborately textured form that spoke to fiction in an intimate and influential exchange. 1 In the following pages I argue that we need radically to reread early twentieth-century fiction by

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