Mary Loeffelholz, From School to Salon: Reading Nineteenth-Century American Women’s Poetry, Princeton University Press, 2004, 288 p.
With the transformation and expansion of the nineteenth-century American literary canon in the past two decades, the work of the era’s American women poets has come to be widely anthologized. But scant scholarship has arisen to make full sense of it. From School to Salon responds to this glaring gap.
Mary Loeffelholz presents the work of nineteenth-century women poets in the context of the history, culture, and politics of the times. She uses a series of case studies to discuss why the recovery of nineteenth-century women’s poetry has been a process of anthologization without succeeding analysis. At the same time, she provides a much-needed account of the changing social contexts through which nineteenth-century American women became poets: initially by reading, reciting, writing, and publishing poetry in school, and later, by doing those same things in literary salons, institutions created by the high-culture movement of the day.
Along the way, Loeffelholz provides detailed analyses of the poetry, much of which has received little or no recent critical attention. She focuses on the works of a remarkably diverse array of poets, including Lucretia Maria Davidson, Lydia Sigourney, Maria Lowell, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Emily Dickinson, Helen Hunt Jackson, and Annie Fields.