Date of Award

8-2-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Reiner Smolinski - Chair

Second Advisor

Tanya Caldwell

Third Advisor

Robert D. Sattelmeyer

Abstract

Once holding an esteemed literary reputation as author of The Gleaner (1798), an eclectic collection of prose and poetry serialized and sold by advance subscription, Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) was virtually forgotten for nearly two centuries. The 1986 discovery of manuscripts believed to have been lost prompted critics to evaluate anew Sargent Murray’s literary accomplishments. Previously unpublished poems and letters mark the prolific author as an important figure in early America’s self-conscious attempt to establish a national literature. This dissertation makes available Volume One of Sargent Murray’s poetry manuscript journals: two hundred and twenty previously unpublished poems and two that were published in The Massachusetts Magazine. The poems in Volume One serve as a representative sampling of the poet’s oeuvre, and the critical introduction and annotations of the first volume provide evidence of her stature as an important figure in early American political activism. She stands out as an early feminist, as a keen observer of social and historical issues (most notably the contest with Great Britain), and as a staunch proponent of the Universalist Church in America.

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