The maritime world was central to nineteenth-century America, and ideas about the ocean, seafaring, and encounters with distant peoples and places suffused the cultural imagination. Women writers who were not mariners themselves incorporated oceanic representations and concerns into their work, often through genres that were generally not associated with the sea, such as children's fiction, diaries, and female coming-of-age stories.
Melissa Gniadek explores the role of the ocean, with particular attention to the Pacific, in a diverse range of literary texts spanning the late 1820s through the mid-1860s from Lydia Maria Child, Caroline Kirkland, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Elizabeth Stoddard, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. Oceans at Home shows that authors employed maritime plots and stories from distant locations to probe contemporary concerns facing the continental United States, ranging from issues of gender restrictions in the domestic sphere to the racial prejudices against indigenous peoples that lay at the heart of settler colonialism.
“Oceans at Home offers a rich exploration of authors and texts not often considered in relation to narratives and economies of the sea. It does so with a careful attention to the ways in which the women writers it treats applied popular oceanic plots and characterizations to speak to the concerns, desires, and experiences that animated their own lives.”—Maura D’Amore, author of Suburban Plots: Men at Home in Nineteenth-Century American Print Culture
“Gniadek broadens the archive and models readings which advance the variety of oceanic methodologies that have recently become a robust area of study within literary criticism. Her archive impressively includes children’s literature, a personal diary heretofore unexamined, a fictionalized travelogue, and novels. The analysis of these female-authored texts is a significant contribution.”—Robin Miskolcze, author of Women and Children First: Nineteenth-Century Sea Narratives and American Identity