In The Mirror of Antiquity, Caroline Winterer uncovers the lost world of American women's classicism during its glory days from the eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Overturning the widely held belief that classical learning and political ideals were relevant only to men, she follows the lives of four generations of American women through their diaries, letters, books, needlework, and drawings, demonstrating how classicism was at the center of their experience as mothers, daughters, and wives. Importantly, she pays equal attention to women from the North and from the South, and to the ways that classicism shaped the lives of black women in slavery and freedom.
In a strikingly innovative use of both texts and material culture, Winterer exposes the neoclassical world of furnishings, art, and fashion created in part through networks dominated by elite women. Many of these women were at the center of the national experience. Here readers will find Abigail Adams, teaching her children Latin and signing her letters as Portia, the wife of the Roman senator Brutus; the Massachusetts slave Phillis Wheatley, writing poems in imitation of her favorite books, Alexander Pope's Iliad and Odyssey; Dolley Madison, giving advice on Greek taste and style to the U.S. Capitol's architect, Benjamin Latrobe; and the abolitionist and feminist Lydia Maria Child, who showed Americans that modern slavery had its roots in the slave societies of Greece and Rome.
Thoroughly embedded in the major ideas and events of the time―the American Revolution, slavery and abolitionism, the rise of a consumer society―this original book is a major contribution to American cultural and intellectual history.
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"The Mirror of Antiquity is the best treatment of American women and the classics from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth century ever published. Lucid, thoughtful, and well-researched, it is certain to become its own object of study, a classic."--Common-place.org
"The Mirror of Antiquity deeply enriches current understanding as we can no longer see the discourse of and through the worlds of Greece and Rome in America as merely political, public, or masculine, or as an exclusively elite, white, and male endeavor. Winterer demonstrates in a remarkable and nuanced monograph how colonial, revolutionary, early republican, antebellum and Gilded-Age American women, each in their own distinct and ingenious ways, operated through and made use of this long-gone world in ever-changing circumstances."--Eran Shalev, Journal of the Early Republic, Spring 2008
The Mirror of Antiquity is a fascinating study that will appeal equally to students of American history, of feminism, of aesthetics, and of the Classics' Rezepzionsgeschichte. . . . Winterer's book sent me often into areas of areas of inquiry into which I rarely have occasion to go. . . .That was itself a great pleasure, and an indication, I believe, of the value of this work."-- Peter Cohee, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"Caroline Winterer uncovers and deftly delineates a women's world of classicism that paralleled and intersected the more well-known evocations of Greece and Rome used by the male founders. Employing clothes, needlework, and furnishings, as well as documents, as her sources, Winterer unveils the compelling historical paradox of American women reaching back to the ancient world to stake their claim to a modern world."--Catherine Allgor, University of California, Riverside
"This charming book reminds us once again how protean is the legacy of classicism. It focuses on American women in the period spanning the huge upheavals of the War for Independence and the Civil War, and shows in vivid cameos how classical models provided an arena of both possibility and circumscription for women in all walks of life--from drawing rooms to slave quarters. The classics served as an ideological Trojan horse, enabling discourse on women's rights as readily as a justification of slaveholding. And the very haphazardness of women's classical education led to extraordinary creative eclecticism. Here are many enticing glimpses through the back door of history, from the inspiration of the `sable Muse' Phillis Wheatley to the surprising significance of the `sopha'. The Mirror of Antiquity is a nuanced, complex, and engagingly narrated work."--Catherine Conybeare, Bryn Mawr College
"In The Mirror of Antiquity, Caroline Winterer affirms the broad currency of classicism in the century following the American Revolution, revealing women's contradictory relations to the texts, images, and objects inspired by ancient Greece and Rome. She shows us how the culture of classicism simultaneously embraced and excluded women and how different groups of women--abolitionist and slaveholding, erudite and merely educated--laid claim to different strands of this wide-ranging discourse. Stylishly written, The Mirror of Antiquity offers fresh insights into the gendered connections between imaginative worlds and political ideologies."--Catherine E. Kelly, University of OklahomaAbout the Author:
Caroline Winterer is an assistant professor at Stanford University. She is also the author of the book, The Mirror of Antiquity: American Women and the Classical Tradition,1750-1900 (Cornell University Press, 2007).
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Book Description Cornell University Press, 2007. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110801441633