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Grant number: FT-59882-12

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Michelle C. Smith
Whitworth University (Spokane, WA 99251-2515)

Transcendental Rhetoric and Domestic Labor at Brook Farm

Nineteenth-century intentional communities were renowned for their violations of spatial and social norms, particularly norms of gendered labor. Because these communities were subjects of public fascination, the narratives of their successes or failures contributed to larger debates about women's work. My article will examine the Transcendentalist community of Brook Farm, illustrating a mismatch between the community's egalitarian rhetoric and the lived practices that relegated women to domestic "drudgery." Yet while the women's lived experience undermined the community's rhetorical promise, Transcendental rhetoric gave women a vocabulary for articulating their dissatisfaction with their assigned roles, prompting many to seek alternative employment within and beyond the community. On a larger scale, this article is the first step towards a book exploring 19th-century Americas "gendered utopias" and their approaches to women's professional, domestic, spiritual, and sexual labor.

Project fields:
Composition and Rhetoric

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

Total amounts:
$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/1/2012 – 7/31/2012