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The Power of Love: The Education of a Domestic Woman in Mary Boykin Chesnut's Two Years

The Power of Love: The Education of a Domestic Woman in Mary Boykin Chesnut's Two Years The Power of Love: The Education of a Domestic Woman in Mary Boykin Chesnut’s Two Years by Wendy Kurant Though many have enjoyed Mary Boykin Chesnut’s witty and insightful observations of southern life in her Civil War diary, few are fa- miliar with her two unpublished novels, Two Years, or The Way We L ived Then and The Captain and the Colonel, written between the end of the war and 1881, when she abandoned the novels to start a major revision of her diary. Fewer still find the novels worthwhile. Even their only editor, Eliz- abeth Muhlenfeld, admits that reading one of Chesnut’s novels is “a con- fusing experience: fine, clearly realized passages are interspersed with sections that are hopelessly jumbled” (183). “Ill formed offspring” that they are, these novels deserve attention, particularly from anyone inter- ested in Chesnut’s view of nineteenth century female experience. Several critics have ardently debated Chesnut’s feminism, or lack thereof, evident in her diary, but none has brought her unpublished novels into the con- versation. This is a curious omission, as both novels deal with young women experiencing courtship and marriage, and one I hope to correct here. Chesnut’s Two Years, or The Way http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

The Power of Love: The Education of a Domestic Woman in Mary Boykin Chesnut's Two Years

The Southern Literary Journal , Volume 34 (2) – Jun 1, 2002

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2002 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

The Power of Love: The Education of a Domestic Woman in Mary Boykin Chesnut’s Two Years by Wendy Kurant Though many have enjoyed Mary Boykin Chesnut’s witty and insightful observations of southern life in her Civil War diary, few are fa- miliar with her two unpublished novels, Two Years, or The Way We L ived Then and The Captain and the Colonel, written between the end of the war and 1881, when she abandoned the novels to start a major revision of her diary. Fewer still find the novels worthwhile. Even their only editor, Eliz- abeth Muhlenfeld, admits that reading one of Chesnut’s novels is “a con- fusing experience: fine, clearly realized passages are interspersed with sections that are hopelessly jumbled” (183). “Ill formed offspring” that they are, these novels deserve attention, particularly from anyone inter- ested in Chesnut’s view of nineteenth century female experience. Several critics have ardently debated Chesnut’s feminism, or lack thereof, evident in her diary, but none has brought her unpublished novels into the con- versation. This is a curious omission, as both novels deal with young women experiencing courtship and marriage, and one I hope to correct here. Chesnut’s Two Years, or The Way

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Jun 1, 2002

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