Monday, November 19, 2012

Jean Lutes

I specialize in American women writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Inspired in part by my first career as a newspaper reporter, I have always been fascinated by the dynamic exchange between journalistic practices and literary work. My first book, Front-Page Girls: Women Journalists in American Literature and Culture, argued that the gritty, male-dominated vision of newspaper work associated with the rise of literary realism in the United States obscures a vibrant alternative tradition of women’s reporting. That tradition featured not objectivity and detachment, but rather material embodiment and emotional engagement.

I am now working on a book about mass print culture, emotionality, and women’s narratives in early twentieth-century America, when dramatic changes in the literary marketplace and in women’s social roles helped to make the question of how women really felt seem especially pressing. At the same time, the terrain of feeling was itself being redefined by the immensely powerful engine of mass print culture. The psychic interiority upon which sentimental narratives relied was, in effect, turned inside out by the explosion of cheap newsprint, which allowed newspapers to circulate intimate details in a form that was accessible to far more readers than even the most widely read novel. The first part of the book examines three influential modes of mass-market journalism that were associated with intense emotion: syndicated advice columns, lynching reports, and sensational murder-trial coverage. The second part of the book examines how novelists responded to the new centrality of emotional style.

As co-director of the Gender and Women’s Studies program at Villanova, I seek to honor and nurture the interdisciplinary work of feminist scholarship, which has shaped my own research interests in profound ways. I regularly review manuscript submissions for scholarly journals, and I have served on the editorial boards of Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature and Legacy: Journal of American Women Writers. Recently I have taught graduate courses on queer theory, emotion and mass culture in American literature, and modernist style in the American novel.

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