Plots and Proposals

Plots and Proposals : American Women's Fiction, 1850-90

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Boy meets girl. Boy proposes to girl. Girl refuses proposal. Then what? This provocative scenario provides the frame for a significant counter-tradition in popular nineteenth-century women's novels: the double-proposal plot, in which the heroine rejects and later accepts proposals from the same suitor. Exploring the American wing of this movement through the novels of Carolyn Hentz, Augusta Evans, Laura J. Curtis Bullard, E. D. E. N. Southworth, and Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Karen Tracey investigates how each of these writers is constrained by her historical circumstances and how she uses her fiction to critique those circumstances. Pioneered in Britain by Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the double-proposal plot dislodges the myth of Mr. Right and questions the all-powerful notions of true love and happily-ever-after. When the heroine rejects her suitor's initial proposal, she opens up the possibility of renegotiating the terms of the relationship and exploring alternative roles. By considering two possible marriages between the same set of partners, the double-proposal plot interrogates the role of middle-class women in courtship and in public life as well as the quality of married life and the influence a woman potentially brings to it. Tracey charts the genre's evolution from novels that seek answers within renegotiated marriages to those that challenge the efficacy of marriage itself. Reconstructing some of the cultural circumstances that would have influenced the writing, publishing, and reading of the novels, "Plots and Proposals" examines how changing notions of love and romance both inform and are critiqued by this renegade fiction.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 224 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 25.4mm
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252025237
  • 9780252025235

Review quote

"Scholarly and enjoyable, Tracey's book is an example of both careful textual study and a very approachable writing style." -- Choice ADVANCE PRAISE "A clear, lively study, intelligently conducted and eminently readable." -- Susan K. Harris, author of Nineteenth-Century American Women's Novels: Interpretive Strategiesshow more

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