Innocents and gilt: American satire in the Confident Years, 1873-1915
Dawley, Megan McNamara
MetadataShow full item record
Under the recent shadow of the Civil War and the failures of Reconstruction, popular writers mocked the national naiveté that led to major distortions in the American cultural self-image. In this dissertation, I study the socially and politically motivated satire of the era between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the First World War. For too long, scholarship in this area has focused almost exclusively on three major satirists and social critics from the Gilded Age: Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Mark Twain. Though I do include some of Mark Twain’s lesser-known later writing as a lens through which to re-examine what is arguably the greatest work of American satire, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the main objective here is to interrogate lesser-known works by other authors of the period, famous as well as relatively unknown. My dissertation aims to uncover neglected works by more famous authors like William Dean Howells and Charlotte Perkins Gilman; to refresh our thinking about writers such as Charles Chesnutt, Finley Peter Dunne, and Edward Bellamy; and to reveal the satirical depths of overlooked figures like Marietta Holley and Mary E. Bradley Lane. Given the parallels between the Confident Years and the United States in the early twenty-first century, in-depth review of the satire of the earlier period seems not only timely but vital.