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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

5. Masculine

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Activities: Author Activities

Catharine Maria Sedgwick - Teaching Tips

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  • In an 1824 book review, a literary critic mistakenly attributed Sedgwick's second novel, Redwood (which she published anonymously), to James Fenimore Cooper. Sedgwick found the mistake amusing, commenting, "It is to be hoped that Mr. C's self-complacency will not be wounded by this mortifying news." Ask students to think about the assumptions about gender and authorship that underwrite Sedgwick's witty comment. Why might the reviewer have made the mistake he did? What does Sedgwick's work have in common with Cooper's?

  • Writing twenty-five years before Hawthorne's famous indictment of that "d--d mob of scribbling women," Sedgwick offered a satiric portrait of the phenomenon of female authorship in her short story "Cacoethes Scribendi." Ask students to consider the nature of Sedgwick's critique. How does the story question the quality of nineteenth-century women's writing? How does the title--which translates as "writer's itch"--mock women writers' pretensions and productivity? What was Sedgwick's own position within the culture of women writers that she satirizes? How might she have defended her own work from the criticisms she levels at other women writers in the story?

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