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The Feminization of American Culture

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  69 ratings  ·  12 reviews
This modern classic by one of our leading scholars seeks to explain the values prevalent in today's mass culture by tracing them back to their roots in the Victorian era. As religion lost its hold on the public mind, clergymen and educated women, powerless and insignificant in the society of the time, together exerted a profound effect on the only areas open to their influ ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 30th 1998 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published May 12th 1977)
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The premise here was immediately interesting to me: The partnership between the clergy and women created a "sentimental society" during the Victorian period in America. Unfortunately the book turned into more of a Who's Who in the clergy world than I cared to read. Things picked up primarily towards the end during the chapters about Margaret Sanger and (I can't believe I'm about to say this) Herman Melville.

It's hard to really nail down what this book is about - feminism? theology? literary crit
An excellent study in the ironies of mass culture in its early years. Douglas shows a generation of early 19th-century liberal ministers and a younger generation of women writers collaborating to promulgate an ideal of the gentle and the nurturing in American life. But, she argues, these writers merely tried to soften the edges of an aggressive, patriarchal, and capitalist culture; they failed to communicate an ideology that would actually challenge that culture. Ministers and women retreated to ...more
Ann Douglas has a way with words...even when she casually concludes that _Pierre's_ Isabel "seems retarded, a bit like Faulkner's Benjy in _The Sound and the Fury_" (313). For the most part, I do agree with her general argument about the feminization of American culture that resulted from the rise of sentimental literature and culture. Her insistence that ALL sentimental literature has feminized (read: debased, anti-intellectualized) American culture and only the romantic (and very masculine (re ...more
Douglas explores how women, especially women writers, forced the shift from in American culture from a rigid, partiarchal, Calvanist society, to a sentimental, feminized, Evangelical society in the 19th century. It's a fascinating analysis of the earliest stages of the women's movement, 19th literature (both the male cannon and the women's sentimental fiction), and American religion - and it's incredibly relevant to understanding our own culture today.
Brittany Martin
Wonderful book. Most reviews of 20th century feminism only go back to the 1950s or 60s. Douglas goes all the way back to the early 19th century and traces the rise of Victorianism as early feminism. She then shows mid-20th century feminism as a rebellion against Victorianism, but then, such as the right-wing/left-wing political dichotomy, they are really just two sides to the same thing.
If I were to re-read this book, I might not rate this book as highly, because the 1980's version of feminism was to disown much of what is feminine--rather than value it on par with what is masculine.
Lindsey Doolan
Read it a second time for thesis, and it made much more sense. Probably read it again someday, because it truly does explain us.
RK Byers
interesting premise: women replaced the clergy as the nation's leading influence. and i say, it's all right.
victorian Americans, 19th C Culture, feminist, calvanists! I think I am in love.
Caitlin Simmons
Extremely interesting, especially her take on the shifting role of Christianity.
Surprisingly accessible. But no, this wasn't my choice.
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Ann Douglas is Parr Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University. Prof. Douglas teaches twentieth-century American literature, film, music, and politics, with an emphasis on the Cold War era, African-American culture, and post-colonial approaches.

Before Columbia, Professor Douglas taught at Princeton from 1970-74 - the first woman to teach in its English Department.

She received a B
More about Ann Douglas...
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