Owning Up: Privacy, Property, and Belonging in U.S. Womens Life Writing, 1840-1890

Hardcover | July 26, 2009

byKatherine Adams

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Owning Up argues that from its beginning the U.S. discourse on privacy has been couched in terms of violation and dispossession, so that even as nineteenth-century Americans came to regard privacy as a natural right, and to identify it with sacred ideals of democratic freedom andindividuality, they also understood it as under threat or erasure. Using biographical and autobiographical writing as her primary archive, Adams traces the public narrative of imperiled privacy across five centuries. Her analyses begin with the premise that nineteenth-century conceptions ofprivacy became meaningful only in negative relation to the encroaching forces of market capitalism and commodification. Where previous studies treat privacy as a stable category whose defining features are middle-class domesticity and femininity, Owning Up contends that privacy is an empty categorythat lacks fixed content and requires constant re-articulation via panic narratives in which gender always operates in intersection with race. Chapters look at how the discourse of imperiled privacy develops in conjunction with Romantic idealism and antebellum reform, racial reconstruction and theethic of self-right, and Social Darwinist laissez faire, and culminates at the end of the century in calls for legislation to protect the American individual's "right to be let alone".

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Owning Up argues that from its beginning the U.S. discourse on privacy has been couched in terms of violation and dispossession, so that even as nineteenth-century Americans came to regard privacy as a natural right, and to identify it with sacred ideals of democratic freedom andindividuality, they also understood it as under threat or...

Katherine Adams is Associate Professor of English at the University of South Carolina.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.13 × 0.98 inPublished:July 26, 2009Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195336801

ISBN - 13:9780195336801

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments1. Introduction2. Tarnished Icons, Shining Lives: Fuller's Publication of Privacy3. Stowe's Truths: Privacy, Privation and the Mob4. Freedom and Ballgowns: Elizabeth Keckley's Executive Domesticity5. The Cost of Self in Two Alcott UtopiasEpilogueIndex