At Home in the World: Women Writers and Public Life, from Austen to the Present

Authors: Maria DiBattista, Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English, professor of English and comparative literature; and Deborah Epstein Nord, Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and professor of English

Publisher: Princeton University Press, February 2017

In a bold and sweeping reevaluation of the past two centuries of women’s writing, At Home in the World argues that this body of work has been defined less by domestic concerns than by an active engagement with the most pressing issues of public life: from class and religious divisions, slavery, warfare and labor unrest to democracy, tyranny, globalism and the clash of cultures. In this new literary history, Maria DiBattista and Deborah Epstein Nord contend that even the most seemingly traditional works by English-language women writers redefine the domestic sphere in ways that incorporate the concerns of public life.

The book explores works by a wide range of writers, including canonical figures such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë and George Eliot; neglected or marginalized writers like Mary Antin and Martha Gellhorn; and recent and contemporary figures, including Nadine Gordimer and Jhumpa Lahiri. DiBattista and Nord show how these writers dramatize tensions between home and the wider world through recurrent themes of sailing forth, escape, exploration, dissent and emigration. The result is an enlightening reinterpretation of women’s writing from the early 19th century to the present day.

Text and book cover courtesy of the publisher

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