This sample William Faulkner Essay is published for informational purposes only. Free essays and research papers, are not written by our writers, they are contributed by users, so we are not responsible for the content of this free sample paper. If you want to buy a high quality essay at affordable price please use our custom essay writing service.
Considered one of the most intellectually gifted American women of the nineteenth century, Margaret Fuller was a journalist, early feminist writer, and a central figure with the transcendentalists. She is perhaps best known as the first editor of the transcendentalist journal The Dial and the author of the feminist treaty Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845). The radical nature of Fuller’s work and her failure to conform to conventional standards of femininity made her a self-proclaimed outsider in nineteenth-century culture. Many critics today praise Fuller as a pioneer feminist whose writings, in some cases, anticipate the work of scholars today.
Works in Biographical and Historical Context
Early Intellectual Education
Born Sarah Margaret Fuller in Cambridgeport, Massachusetts, on May 23, 1810, she was the daughter of Timothy Fuller and his wife, Margaret (Crane). Her father was a lawyer and politician who once served in both the Massachusetts legislature as well as the U.S. House of Representatives. Fuller showed her intellectual nature from an early age, compelling her father to insist that she receive a classical education equivalent to a boy’s. With his personal guidance, she was tutored in Latin, Greek, French, Italian, German, history, mathematics, and grammar. By the age of six, Fuller was translating the works of the ancient Roman poet, Virgil. Yet, her father’s strict educational program took its toll on her health as a child, causing Fuller to later regret not having a more normal childhood.
In 1821, recognizing that their daughter had little social interaction with other children outside the family, the Fullers sent her to Dr. John Park’s school in Boston, which she attended for little more than a year. Her only other formal schooling was at Susan Prescott’s school in Groton, which she attended from 1824 to 1826. Fuller was a student at this female seminary to learn the social graces appropriate to a young lady but was not challenged by the educational aspect of the school. Though Fuller mingled with Harvard students and acquired a reputation for being a sharp and intelligent conversationalist by the late 1820s, she always regretted that, as a woman, she was denied a formal Harvard education. Indeed, it would be several decades before women would receive an equivalent education at Radcliffe—a partner college of Harvard—and even longer before women would be admitted directly to Harvard itself.
When her father moved the family to a farm in Groton, Massachusetts, in 1831, she resented the move and missed city life. She spent her free time teaching her younger siblings and studying German literature and criticism. While living in Groton, she became acquainted with the intellectuals and ministers who made up the Transcendentalist Club. The transcendentalist movement was a philosophic school that emphasized intuition and direct experience over rationalism and traditional authority. This uniquely American strain of Romanticism placed an emphasis on nature as a mirror of self.
Fuller’s interest in self-improvement and new German criticism, as well as her ambivalence towards institutional religion, made her an integral figure in the transcendentalist movement. Because she lacked the educational and professional opportunities of the men in the group, Fuller was also aware of being both an insider and outsider. Yet, her relationships with Ralph Waldo Emerson and other male transcendentalists pushed her to redefine the nature of friendship, going beyond traditional gender expectations to call for men as well as women to behave with empathy and love toward their friends.
Teaching and Promoting Women’s Education
When Fuller’s father died unexpectedly from cholera in 1835, Fuller took up teaching to help support her family. By 1836, Fuller was employed as a teacher in the Temple School, run by Bronson Alcott. There, she taught Latin and French. From 1837 to 1838, she taught at the Greene Street School in Providence. As a teacher, Fuller experimented with interactive dialogues as a teaching method. She also began writing criticism and translating German literature. By 1839, her family’s financial situation had improved and Fuller joined her mother in Boston, where she resumed her friendships with the leading figures of the transcendentalist movement.
Fuller s teaching and her experiences with the transcendentalists contributed to her successful Conversation Clubs. In 1839 in Boston, Fuller began hosting ”conversations for educated women, which continued until she left New England in 1844. Fuller’s series of conversations, which drew many of the wives, fiancees, daughters, and sisters of the all-male Transcendentalist Club, encouraged women to view themselves as intellectual beings rather than weak-minded females. Other contemporary issues were also covered. These seminars lasted for thirteen weeks annually, and grew in reputation and drew larger audiences each time.
The Dial and the Tribune
In 1840, Fuller became the first editor of the Dial, the magazine of the transcendentalists. Though Fuller resigned the editorship in 1842, she was the most prolific contributor to the periodical during its initial five-year run. She published many essays and critical reviews, using her unique perspective: Objecting to the normal critical practice of measuring literary works against external standards, Fuller believed the reviewer had to enter into the spirit of a given work and understand its central vision. Only then, with that understanding, could she analyze and judge the text at hand. Fuller published her first book in 1844, Summer on the Fakes, in 1843. This collection of travel essays was written after her 1843 tour of the Great Lakes with her friend Sarah Clarke. The book landed her a job in New York City with Horace Greeley’s progressive newspaper, the New York Tribune. She worked as a journalist, literary critic, and editor for the paper and was paid a salary equivalent to what a man in her position would have earned. Fuller was the first woman on an American newspaper’s editorial staff, and her column appeared regularly on the Tribune’s front page.
Through the Tribune, Fuller used her influence to promote then-unknown American authors—such as Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, and Nathaniel Hawthorne— and suggested that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poetry was overrated. She praised the works of Lydia Sigourney, Caroline Kirkland, and Anna Mowatt, and championed George Sand, the radical French novelist whose behavior shocked most American readers.
During her two-year stint with the Tribune, Fuller published Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845). A shorter version had originally been published as a long essay entitled ”The Great Lawsuit: Man versus Men; Women versus Women” in 1843. In the work, Fuller laid out her feminist vision, challenging the gender roles demanded by American society.
Challenging Female Stereotypes
At this time, Americans believed in the ”doctrine of separate spheres.” God and biology dictated that women should remain in the home, rear children, and exert their moral influence. A woman’s smaller brain and predisposition to excitability were said to render her unfit for positions of authority in social and political life. Men, with greater strength and larger brains, were to occupy the sphere of public life. In her book, Fuller dismissed the cultural stereotypes of women, especially when that image led to a subservient role in marriage. On a broader level, Fuller argued for an essentially androgynous understanding of the intellect and emotions that would acknowledge both the feminine and masculine in men’s and women’s minds. Woman in the Nineteenth Century marked her as a leading theorist in the cause of American feminism and helped launch the women’s rights movement, but was highly controversial in its time.
In 1846, Fuller published a collection of criticism previously published in various periodicals, Papers on Fiterature and Art. That same year, she went to Europe, in part to serve as a foreign correspondent for the Tribune. She was one of America’s first foreign correspondents. Fuller became an ardent supporter of the Italian movement for unification and independence and sent the Tribune reports of the 1848 Italian revolution, which eventually achieved the goal of a united Italy.
Part of War in Italy
In Italy, Fuller also took a lover, Marquis Giovanni Angelo Ossoli, a Roman nobleman who had turned Roman Republican. They had a child, Angelo, in 1848, and may have secretly married in 1849 or 1850. With the failure of the Roman revolution, Fuller returned to the United States with her husband and son in 1850. Their ship ran aground and sank off Fire Island near New York. All three died in the wreck on July 19, 1850, and Fuller’s body was never recovered. Fuller had in her possession manuscripts for what would have been a history of the Italian revolution, which were also lost at sea.
Works in Literary Context
As a strong advocate of a woman’s right and need to fulfill her potential, Fuller’s published writings contributed to the development of American feminism and emphasized greater ideas about equality. She also played a significant role in the spread of the ideals of transcendentalists through her work as founding editor and chief contributor to the Dial. As well as providing transcendentalism a vehicle for expression, Fuller’s work for the Dial established her, along with Edgar Allan Poe, as one of the most important literary critics in nineteenth-century America. As an author, Fuller was greatly influenced by the writers and theories she learned during her formidable education, members of the transcendentalist circle (especially Ralph Waldo Emerson), and such diverse authors as Adam Smith, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, and George Sand.
Throughout her work—as well as her life—Fuller was greatly influenced by, and expressed the ideals of, the transcendentalists. Their philosophy centered around social reform, self-truth, self-reliance, and personal excellence. Fuller hoped to instill in women an intellectual self-reliance and a sense of inner worth through her Conversation Club, and each of her books—as well as her many essays and works of criticism—took on a similar tone. Her work on the Dial also promoted the transcendental philosophy and ideas, as did the pieces she published in the New York Tribune. In these works, Fuller advocated a comprehensive criticism that balanced an emphasis on what she terms “genius,” in a move to educate her fellow readers. Fuller also showed the influence by transcendental ideas about self-reliance in her best-known work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century.
In many of her works, Fuller also highlighted the ways in which various groups in American society were oppressed and exploited. As a social reformer, she was sympathetic to women abandoned by society, such as prostitutes, as well as other oppressed groups, including Indians, blacks, the poor, and the physically and mentally disabled. She often appealed for a change in status for such people. In Woman in the Nineteenth Century, for example, Fuller called for complete equality between males and females, and compared the struggle for women’s rights with the abolition movement. She insisted that all professions be open to women and contended that women should not be forced to submit to the men in their lives—husbands, fathers, or brothers. Even in the travel essays which make up Summer on the Lake, Fuller highlighted such concerns. The book called attention to the exploitation of Native Americans, abuse of the environment, and mistreatment of pioneer women. Fuller also touched upon these issues in her criticism. In the New York Tribune, Fuller lauded The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave (1845), expressing hope that readers of the book would truly understand how slavery affected the enslaved.
Works in Critical Context
Aside from the controversial nature of Fuller’s feminist theories, early criticism of her writings focused on her literary style, which was modeled on the classics, but was considered far too ornate and lengthy. Contemporary assessments of her work were also colored by resistance to Fuller’s strong personality. In addition, the heavy-handed editing of her papers and diaries after her death—by such famous contemporaries as William Henry Channing, James Freeman Clark, and Ralph Waldo Emerson—suppressed some of the more controversial aspects of her life and work.
As a result, succeeding generations of critics have underestimated her contributions to the nineteenth-century struggle for women’s equality. While Woman in the Nineteenth Century was considered the inspiration for the 1848 women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, for example, the work virtually disappeared after the publication of a second edition in 1855. Since the 1970s, Fuller’s work has been reexamined and her critical reputations restored primarily through the efforts of feminist scholars. She is now considered a pivotal figure in the development of American feminism in the nineteenth century.
Woman in the Nineteenth Century
Fuller’s best-known work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century was highly controversial in its time. Some critics believed Fuller’s notions would destroy the stability and sanctity of the home. Some objections were lodged on religious grounds as her ideas were considered contrary to the divine order. In a contemporary review published in the Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany, a sympathetic critic concludes, ”She has discussed a delicate topic delicately and fearlessly; without prudish folly, without timidity, as a true woman should. . . . What she has said needed to be said. . . .” While many feminist critics embraced Fuller’s book by the late twentieth century, a critical divide remained. As Fritz Fleischmann wrote in Women’s Studies and Literature:
Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845) is one of the most fascinating, but also one of the most frustrating texts in the literature of feminist thought, as generation after generation of critics has demonstrated. The reasons for this frustration are not clear. Is it the lack of feminist bravado or moral uplift? … Is it Fuller’s intellectuality, her erudition, that readers have found forbidding?
Summer on the Lakes, in 1843
Like Woman, Fuller’s first book Summer on the Lakes, in 1843 also received many mixed, if not negative, reviews from contemporary critics. Orestes A. Brownson in Brownson’s Quarterly Review admits that her ”writings we do not like. We dislike them exceedingly.” Yet, he concludes, ”It is marked by flashes of a rare genius, by uncommon and versatile powers, by sentiments at times almost devout; but after all it is a sad book, and one which we dare not commend.” More positively, Caleb Stetson in the Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany comments, ”Knowing the extraordinary endowments of its author, we looked for an uncommon book, and we were not disappointed. It is indeed an uncommon book, not at all like an ordinary journal of travel. Today, many critics consider Summer one of the finest American examples of the literary excursion. Other critics have seen mostly disorder in Fuller s combination of descriptive sketches, literary extracts, dramatic dialogues, fiction, and poetry. Still others find the work a center of dramatic interest in the narrator s struggle with the various cultural scripts of nineteenth-century America.
- Allen, Margaret Vanderhaar. The Achievement of Margaret Fuller. University Park, Penn.: Penn State Press, 1979.
- Deiss, Joseph Jay. The Roman Years of Margaret Fuller. New York: Thomas Y. Cromwell, 1969.
- Fleischmann, Fritz. ”Margaret Fuller, the Eternal Feminine, and the ‘Liberties of the Republic’.” In Women’s Studies and Literature, edited by Fritz Fleischmann and Deborah Lucas Schneider. Eralangen, Germany: Palm & Enke, 1987, pp. 39-57.
- Von Mehren, Laurie. Minerva and the Muse: A Life of Margaret Fuller. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994.
- Watson, David. Margaret Fuller: An American Romantic. New York: St. Martin s Press, 1988.
- Brownson, Orestes A. A review of Summer on the Lakes, in 1843. Brownson’s Quarterly Review (October 1844) : 546-547.
- A review of Woman in the Nineteenth Century. The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany (May 1845) : 416-417.
- Stetson, Caleb. A review of Summer on the Lakes, in 1843. The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany (September 1844): 274-276.
Free essays are not written to satisfy your specific instructions. You can use our professional writing services to order a custom essay, research paper, or term paper on any topic and get your high quality paper at affordable price. UniversalEssays is the best choice for those who seek help in essay writing or research paper writing in any field of study.