History/GWS 249 Reading Guide

Nineteenth Century Local Color and Realist Fiction



  • Recall our discussion of Linda Kerber, "Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman’s Place:  The Rhetoric of Women’s History”:  we need to understand the historiography of the “trope” of “women’s sphere” or “separate spheres” if we wish to place fiction written by late nineteenth century middle class (“privileged”—socio-economically and/or educationally) women in its proper historical perspective.  Use the various frameworks for understanding women’s place and women’s world that Kerber describes and analyzes to consider the stories that these women wrote about women’s lives, women’s experiences, and women’s “spheres.”
  • What are the common threads and the differences in the three stories?
  • 'How did each of these authors portray or grapple with the “realities” of women’s lives – spaces, spheres, boundaries, opportunities?  What did they want to convey?
  • What constituted the focus and the variety of women’s lives in the stories that these authors created?  What were the differences, and what is the significance of those differences?
  • How did women respond to contemporary assumptions about women’s place?  What solutions did they suggest?  What options could they envision?

Further reading: