Fanny Fern Criticism - Essay

Ann D. Wood (essay date 1971)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The ‘Scribbling Women’ and Fanny Fern: Why Women Wrote,” in American Quarterly, Vol. XXIII, No. 1, Spring, 1971, pp. 3-24.

[In the following essay, Wood discusses women's writing in mid-nineteenth-century America, with particular emphasis on Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall and how the novel deviated from what was considered “appropriate” writing for women.]

In January 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne penned a protest which was to be often quoted in later years, against the “d———d mob of scribbling women” who were, in his opinion, both capturing and corrupting the literary market. In a subsequent letter to the same correspondent, his publisher...

(The entire section is 10284 words.)

Susan K. Harris (essay date 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Inscribing and Defining: The Many Voices of Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall,” in Nineteenth-Century American Women's Novels: Interpretative Strategies, Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 111-27.

[In the following essay, Harris argues that Fanny Fern had a deliberate strategy in mind while writing Ruth Hall:according to Harris, Fern subverted the constructs of sentimental literature in order to express her own ideas about women's independence and to challenge the very notion of the “ideal” nineteenth-century woman.]

Fanny Fern's (Sara Payson Willis) 1855 novel Ruth Hall1 is the story of a woman who, losing her economic security...

(The entire section is 8428 words.)

Joyce W. Warren (essay date 1991)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Text and Context in Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall: From Widowhood to Independence,” in Joinings and Disjoinings: The Significance of Marital Status in Literature, edited by JoAnna Stephens Mink and Janet Doubler Ward, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1991, pp. 67-76.

[In the following essay, Warren explores how Fern's own experience as a vulnerable and powerless widow served as the basis for her novel Ruth Hall and caused her to urge all women—married and unmarried—to secure economic independence for themselves.]

When Fanny Fern's novel Ruth Hall was published in 1855, it created a sensation. In this largely autobiographical novel,...

(The entire section is 5084 words.)

Joyce W. Warren (essay date 1992)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “‘Fanny Ford’ and Rose Clark,” in Fanny Fern: An Independent Woman, Rutgers University Press, 1992, pp. 195-210.

[In the following essay, Warren evaluates two of Fern's works—her serialized novella “Fanny Ford” and her second novel, Rose Clark. Warren argues that one of the most significant aspects of the novella is its social criticism—Fern confronted such issues as the need for educational reform, the plight of women workers, the necessity of improved child-rearing methods, and the unjust conditions in a patriarchal society. According to Warren, the most valuable aspects of Rose Clark are the insights it affords into Fern's second marriage; its...

(The entire section is 8753 words.)

Nancy A. Walker (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Sentiment and Satire: Fern Leaves,” in Fanny Fern, Twayne Publishers, 1993, pp. 23-39.

[In the following essay, Walker provides an overview of the prevailing themes and topics of Fanny Fern's newspaper columns, including those reprinted in Fern Leaves and Shadows and Sunbeams (the title of the reprinted version of Fern Leaves, Second Series).]


The twentieth-century newspaper, with its clear distinction between the objective reporting of news and the opinions expressed on editorial pages, is the product of a long evolution in which columns such as those of Fanny Fern played an...

(The entire section is 7988 words.)

Linda Grasso (essay date 1995)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Anger in the House: Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall and the Redrawing of Emotional Boundaries in Mid-Nineteenth-Century America,” in Studies in the American Renaissance, edited by Joel Myerson, University Press of Virginia, 1995, pp. 251-61.

[In the following essay, Grasso argues that Fern's Ruth Hall was part of a larger mid-nineteenth-century debate over the public expression of anger by women, and whether this type of public expression could be considered appropriate “female” behavior and whether it posed a threat to existing gender roles.]

[I]n view of this entire disfranchisement of one-half the people of this country,...

(The entire section is 5262 words.)

Claire C. Pettengill (essay date 1996)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Against Novels: Fanny Fern's Newspaper Fictions and the Reform of Print Culture,” in American Periodicals, Vol. 6, 1996, pp. 61-91.

[In the following essay, Pettengill examines newspaper and novel writing in the mid-nineteenth century and shows how Fern's work in these two genres at times blurred the distinction between them.]


To The Reader

I present you with my first continuous story. I do not dignify it by the name of “A novel.” I am aware that it is entirely at variance with all set rules for novel...

(The entire section is 11726 words.)

Nicole Tonkovich (essay date 1997)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Fatherless Daughters: Sarah Hale and Fanny Fern,” in Domesticity with a Difference: The Nonfiction of Catharine Beecher, Sarah J. Hale, Fanny Fern, and Margaret Fuller, University Press of Mississippi, 1997, pp. 26-46.

[In the following excerpt, Tonkovich explores the influence of Fanny Fern's home life, education, and the community on her literary efforts. Tonkovich also argues that Fern never considered writing and domesticity as mutually exclusive.]

… Grata Sara(h) Payson Willis Eldredge Farrington Parton (who also used the pseudonyms “Tabitha,” “Olivia,” and “Fanny Fern”) is a figure whose multiplicity of names marks the difficulty of...

(The entire section is 4922 words.)