Monday, November 23, 2015

Recently Read: The Lamplighter-- Classics Club Women's Literature Event

Author: Maria Susanna Cummins
Genre: Classic
Publication Date: 1854
Page Count: 480
Rating: 4/5

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Gertrude is a young orphan living with a mean old woman, until an incident leads her to be adopted by the lamplighter of the town, and older but soft-hearted gentlemen. Gertrude then builds herself a small family as she grows from an orphan child into a young woman.

I have to write a paper on this novel and create a presentation on it, so my review may be brief so I don't get tired of writing about this novel before I even begin my school writing on it. You know how it goes.

Maria Susanna Cummins was quite successful financially for her writing in 1800's America, and this book sold thousands of copies. Now, like many women writers, she is mostly forgotten. This novel is very hefty. I read it over a couple of months in class, but I got the majority of it done via audiobook driving home and back to school. This book really reminded me of an American Jane Eyre. Gertrude is not conventionally beautiful, but she is exceptionally kind-hearted. She is a great character and quite resilient. If you liked Jane Eyre, I think you would really enjoy this. The religious themes are quite heavy since it was mid-1800's America, but I really enjoyed this novel I lot more than I thought I would, and I loved that I got to discover a new-to-me and forgotten women author.

This book was considered a domestic novel when it was released, as was pretty much any book written by a female author about a female character, and was therefore dismissed by the literary critics and never made it into the cannon. There is an extreme lack of diversity in the American Lit class I am taking right now, and my blood has been boiling all semester for all of the women and people of color that have been left out of this class. We have read ten Hawthorne stories, and excerpts of two women's works. We have read one page bios of all of these important and leading feminist writers, but none of their works. I can't stress enough how much we STILL need to widen the cannon to let in authors that are not white, middle class, Christian men! That's part of the reason why I am so excited about this event. Women had to be twice as good as men to get any literary respect and if they did get it, it was more-than-likely because they published under a male or gender neutral pseudonym.

I have a post planned all about the forgotten women of American Lit, which I wrote a paper on earlier in the semester and really enjoyed researching for. I'll be working on re-tuning the paper soon, so I will be sharing the post soon as well.

Let me know what you have posted for the Women's Event, or if you have read any great posts for it lately!

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