Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Janet Gabler-Hover

Second Advisor

Audrey Goodman

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Burmester

Abstract

The American author Jane Goodwin Austin published 24 novels and numerous short stories in a variety of genres between 1859 and 1892. Austin’s most popular works focus on her Pilgrim ancestors, and she is often lauded as a notable scholar of Puritan history who carefully researched her subject matter; however, several of the most common myths about the Pilgrims seem to have originated in Austin’s fiction. As a writer who saw her work as her means of entering the public sphere and enacting social change, Austin championed women and religious diversity. The range of Austin’s oeuvre, her coterie of notable friendships, especially amongst New England elites, and her impact on American myth and culture make her worthy of in-depth scholarly study, yet, inexplicably, very little critical work exists on Austin. This dissertation provides the most comprehensive biography of Austin to date, compiled largely from archival sources, and examines two of her novels, the 1865 Dora Darling: Daughter of the Regiment, one of the only Civil War-era adventure novels featuring a young girl who engages directly in the war, and the 1889 Standish of Standish, a carefully researched novel of the first few years of the Pilgrim’s Plymouth settlement, based on primary sources, popular culture, and family lore.

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