Abstract

The article describes the impact of two popular fin de siècle philosophical movements—Arts and Crafts and New Thought—on both well-known authors like Frank Norris and Charlotte Perkins Gilman and the lesser-known writers it reads more closely: Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Madeline Yale Wynne. Although their values were antithetical, Arts and Crafts and New Thought shared striking similarities in the ways they yoked consumption habits to personal well-being and used fiction to understand and endorse popular secular philosophies. These women-led movements shaped enduring national ideologies and the literature of their period, which tends to either synthesize the beliefs of both movements or represent one as patently superior to the other through satire or protest. The recovery of the history of these movements and their contribution to American literature not only retraces a lost genealogy of popular ideas that have shaped our culture, but also demonstrates the centrality of female thinkers and writers to the development of our present-day notions about how to transcend the grinding forces of consumer capitalism in everyday life.

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