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Between the Novel and the News

The Emergence of American Women's Writing
Sari Edelstein

BUY Cloth · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813935898 · $59.50 · Apr 2014
BUY Paper · 240 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813935904 · $29.50 · Apr 2014
BUY Ebook · 240 pp. · ISBN 9780813935911 · $29.50 · Apr 2014

While American literary history has long acknowledged the profound influence of journalism on canonical male writers, Sari Edelstein argues that American women writers were also influenced by a dynamic relationship with the mainstream press. From the early republic through the turn of the twentieth century, she offers a comprehensive reassessment of writers such as Catharine Maria Sedgwick, Harriet Jacobs, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Drawing on slave narratives, sentimental novels, and realist fiction, Edelstein examines how advances in journalism—including the emergence of the penny press, the rise of the story-paper, and the birth of eyewitness reportage—shaped not only a female literary tradition but also gender conventions themselves.

Excluded from formal politics and lacking the vote, women writers were deft analysts of the prevalent tropes and aesthetic gestures of journalism, which they alternately relied upon and resisted in their efforts to influence public opinion and to intervene in political debates. Ultimately, Between the Novel and the News is a project of recovery that transforms our understanding of the genesis and the development of American women’s writing.


This important book advances the knowledge about women’s writing within a frame that both recognizes the traditional canonical values of aesthetics, complexity, and artistry and goes beyond those traditional values to examine cultural context, ideologies of gender and race, and artificial distinctions between various kinds of ‘texts.’

Nicole Tonkovich, University of California, San Diego, author of Domesticity with a Difference: The Nonfiction of Catharine Beecher, Sarah J. Hale, Fanny Fern, and Margaret Fuller

Edelstein demonstrates a deep sensitivity to the messiness of the relationship between fact and fiction... As a result, [her] analysis shows us a great deal about anxieties, ambivalence, and contradiction rather than making grand statements or drawing clear lines of connection or difference... This, too, expresses a kind of truth often ignored in traditional historiography.

American Periodicals

What I find most invigorating about Between the Novel and the News is Edelstein’s intellectual daring: her own literary criticism replicates the characteristics of the women she writes about. In each chapter, she makes claims about texts that initially might seem playful or even far- fetched, only to elucidate her interpretations in ways that are enormously compelling and truly thrilling.

Legacy: Journal of American Women Writers

Edelstein’s Between the Novel and the News entirely reboots our sense of how and why American women’s writing emerged. With verve and wit, Edelstein argues that women’s writing did not arise from cultural concerns centered on their roles in the private sphere but rather as a reaction to their exclusion from the public sphere of debate and critical engagement, which in the nineteenth century, came to be centered in the news industry. This fresh new view reveals that the social consciousness, ethical critique, and gendered strategies long associated with women writers did not emerge out of the sweet generosities of hearth and home but rather out of protest overexclusion from public discourse, outrage over the representational politics of the media, and a staunch gendered critique of rationalist, empirical modes of inquiry styled as "objective" and "universal" by the news industry.

Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature

Between the Novel and the News contains insightful readings of both fiction and newspapers and presents a range of female authors in a consistently clear style that makes one look forward to future work by this scholar.

Nineteenth-Century Prose

Cogently combining thorough historical analysis, creative readings of literary symbolism, and forceful applications of feminist thought, [Edelstein] shows once again how the achievements of women writers have been underestimated and what their work contributes to our understanding of the relation between journalism and fiction in the nineteenth century.

Review 19

"All scholars interested in how print cultures matter to gendered analyses of texts or to the politics of literary history and recovery would do well to seek out these studies."

Dorri Beam, Syracuse University · TSWL

About the Author(s): 

Sari Edelstein is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

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