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Gretchen Murphy

Core FacultyPh.D., 1999, University of Washington

Professor in the Department of English, College of Liberal Arts
Gretchen Murphy



U.S. Literature and culture to 1914, nationalism and imperialism, sentimental and domestic writing


Research Interests: U.S. Literature and culture to 1914, Nationalism and imperialism, Sentimental and domestic writing

Recent Publications: Hemispheric Imaginings: The Monroe Doctrine and Narratives of U.S. Empire. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005.

“How the Irish Became Japanese: Winnifred Eaton and Racial Reconstruction in a Transnational Context.” Forthcoming in American Literature, March 2006.

“The New Woman and the New Pacific: Winnifred Eaton and U.S. Empire.” Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies 29 (2005): 395-418.

“Symzonia, Typee, and the Dream of U.S. Global Isolation.” ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance 43:3 (2003): 1-35.

“’A home which is still not a home’: Finding a Place for Ranald MacDonald.” ATQ: Nineteenth Century Literature and Culture 15:3 (2001): 225-244.

“Enslaved Bodies: Figurative Slavery in the Temperance Fiction of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Walt Whitman.” Genre 28:1 (1995): 95-118.

Department of English in The College of Liberal Arts at UT Austin. Inform


WGS 345 • Rewriting Womanhood

47145 • Fall 2010
Meets MWF 100pm-200pm PAR 105
(also listed as E 370W)

E 370W, Rewriting Womanhood
Instructor:  Gretchen Murphy, Associate Professor
Fall 2010

Course Description
Race, Gender, and 19th-Century American Women Writers --
This course examines fictional and autobiographical writings by black and white women from 1797 to 1914, paying attention to the way these works negotiated conflicts of race, class, gender and sexuality.  During the nineteenth century, both black and white women writers took a risk when writing to the public.  For white women, addressing the public in print could be seen as overstepping the era’s strict social boundaries around female modesty.  For African American women writers during this era, this delicate situation was compounded by the necessity of addressing black female sexual oppression in slavery and the racial subtexts of gender ideals.  By studying and writing about these novels and joining in the tradition of critical discussion about these works, we’ll work to understand the way women used authorship to withstand, adapt, and subvert dominant ideas of black and white femininity.

Possible selected novels by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harriet Wilson, Elizabeth Stoddard, Pauline Hopkins, Lydia Maria Child, Kate Chopin

Prerequisite: Nine semester hours of coursework in English or rhetoric and writing.

WGS 393 • Recov Black/White Wom Writers

47315 • Fall 2010
Meets MW 330pm-500pm UTC 4.114
(also listed as E 389P)

American literary studies has been profoundly shaped in the past thirty years by feminist efforts to “recover” forgotten women writers of the nineteenth-century.  The books that this movement has seen into print and into graduate and undergraduate classrooms raise important critical issues such as sentimentality and aesthetics, public and private power dynamics, race and sexuality, and authorship and identity.  In this class, we will cover a range of such texts written by African American and white women writers and their growing body of critical work.

This course is suitable for all graduate students, and is appropriate for those in the early stages of their coursework or new to the study of nineteenth-century American women writers and/or early African American women’s writing. 


Course requirements include 1) an oral presentation and paper performing a literature review of a set of related secondary texts; 2) a presentation and short summary/response of on an out-of-print publication by a nineteenth-century American woman writer; and 3) a draft of a conference paper and an abstract of the paper aimed at a particular conference.


Primary texts for this course will include Hannah Crafts The Bondswoman’s Narrative; Lydia Maria Child A Romance of the Republic; Julia C. Collins The Curse of Caste, or the Slave Bride; Susanna Cummins The Lamplighter; Emma Dunham Kelly Megda; Fanny Fern Ruth Hall; Harriet Jacobs Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Pauline Hopkins Contending Forces, E.D.E.N. Southworth The Hidden Hand; Susan Warner The Wide, Wide World; Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig.

Note: In order to include some lesser-known recovered woks, I have left off the most obvious choice, Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Central to both politics of recovering nineteenth-century women writers and the major themes of nineteenth-century black and white women’s writing, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is strongly recommended as pre-reading for the course.

Secondary readings that students will cover either individually or as a class will be drawn from 1) early feminist criticism and debate that established sentimental and domestic women’s writing in the canon; 2) formal efforts to define and evaluate sentimentality and related forms such as melodrama and domestic fiction; 3) historicist readings exploring the relationship of sentimentality to legal discourse, capitalism and individualism, consumer culture, feminism, slavery and abolitionism, miscegenation and racial identity, sexuality, masochism, and imperialism; 4) the on-going biographical and archival research that sometimes makes these recovered finds “moving targets” that are difficult to classify and interpret.  This list includes essays and books by Nina Baym, Lauren Berlant, Gillian Brown, Dale Bauer, Hazel Carby, Gregg Crane, Cathy Davidson, Elizabeth Dillon, Joanne Dobson, Ann Douglas, Judith Fetterley, Joseph Fichtelberg, Philip Fisher, Holy Jackson, Henry Louis Gates, Winnifred Fluck, Glenn Handler, Amy Kaplan, Lori Merish, Marianne Noble, Lillian Robinson, Hortense Spillers, Jane Tompkins, Shirley Samuels, Karen Sanchez-Eppler.

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