This text of Elizabeth Fox-Genovese's is published posthumously in the context of pieces dedicated to her memory. It is unclear whether she intended it for eventual publication or whether she had intended it as a lecture; nor is there decisive evidence for a date of composition. In it, she reviews the stance of feminist literary criticism toward religion and finds it to be generally negative. She regrets that feminist critics see in religion mostly a means of subordinating women to men, given that most of the writers whose work they explicate were themselves fervently religious. She then examines the feminization of religion in nineteenth-century America and the growing idea at the time of female moral stewardship. After examining the contrasting approaches taken to the process of feminization by Harriet Beecher Stowe and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Fox-Genovese then takes as her main case Augusta Jane Evans's novels Beulah and St. Elmo. She argues that feminist critics, in concentrating on questions about the marriage or independence of Evans's characters miss Evans's central concern, which was the loss and recovery of her characters' faith. The feminist critics (given their hostility to religion) misunderstand that Evans's stance was not one against female individualism, but rather (given her commitment as a Christian) a stance against the unbridled individualism of modern American society.
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Elizabeth Fox-Genovese; Religion, Meaning, and Identity in Women's Writing. Common Knowledge 1 January 2008; 14 (1): 16–28. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2007-030
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