Rose Terry Cooke and the Roots of Realist Taste

Andrew Lawson

in Downwardly Mobile

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199828050
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199933334 | DOI:
Rose Terry Cooke and the Roots of Realist Taste

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This chapter shows how Cooke’s Balzacian realism provides a solid referential ground for her characters, locating them within a household economy in the process of being broken up by the forced migrations and commercial transactions of the market economy. While the sentimentalism of Harriet Beecher Stowe assumes a bond of sympathy between her characters and her readership, Cooke’s realism highlights the social gulf between her subjects, the women of the rural poor, and her educated, middle-class readers. The chapter traces the downward mobility of Cooke’s father, Henry Wadsworth Terry, and the privations Cooke endured as a result of this loss of social position. Her stories are narrated through an imaginative identification with the marginal and the excluded, constructing a militantly frugal, lower-middle-class aesthetic aimed against upper-middle-class extravagance and pretension.

Keywords: balzac; mimesis; sentimentalism; gentry class; connecticut; market economy

Chapter.  10997 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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