Symmetrical Womanhood: Poetry in the Woman's Building Library
University of Texas Press
Libraries & Culture
Late-nineteenth-century women poets shed midcentury sentimentality unevenly and at some cost, losing a sense of privacy, a (Christian) frame of reference, and an "imagined community" of women who shared their worldview. They also gained more public, secular, and professional sources of identity. The exact nature of this postsentimental self was unclear. Postsentimental poets often wrote in the "genteel tradition," which trumpeted eternal truth and beauty while working from a position of subjective instability. Ultimately, their verses must be seen as powerfully fluid and transitional, registering (like the Woman's Building Library) women's struggle to inhabit more public forms of authority.