Little Women, Mutable Authors: Louisa May Alcott and the Question of Authorship
AdvisorTemple, Judy Nolte
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
EmbargoRelease after 27-Apr-2014
AbstractThis project analyzes the ways that Louis May Alcott portrays authors in several texts, including Hospital Sketches (1863), "Enigmas" (1864), "Psyche's Art" (1868), Little Women (1868), A Modern Mephistopheles (1877), and Diana and Persis (1878). An examination of prevailing contemporary theories of authorship reveals that Alcott's interest in authorship (as shown through her experiences as a writer and the author figures she depicts within her writing) cannot be adequately analyzed under any of the existing theoretical frameworks because the theories neglect to consider markers of racial, sexual, cultural, and class-based difference. Being a female author in nineteenth-century America was, for Alcott, a preoccupation. Thus much of her writing features representations of authors. For Alcott, as well as many of her female contemporaries, the question "What does it mean to be an author?" cannot be considered without also asking, "What does it mean to be a woman?" and "How can an author be represented in a text?" Alcott's treatment of these questions in her writing was her attempt to create a dialogue between herself, other writers, and her reading public. By studying Alcott's author figures, I advance a model of authorship that highlights issues of gender and multiplicity; in this way my work has applications to other authors who have been excluded by normative definitions of authorship. The concept of "mutable authorship," a model that more accurately incorporates Alcott's treatment of authorship, is the product of several different literary, historical, and feminist theoretical lenses. This dissertation works through the different structuring figures that Alcott uses to represent the author, beginning with the semi-autobiographical first-person narrator and moving to the more metaphorical figures of the artist and the performer. The discussion culminates with the exploration of adaptation and collaboration in the three Hollywood feature films of Alcott's best-known work, Little Women, and several recent texts that respond directly to Alcott's work.
Degree ProgramGraduate College