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By the Sweat of the Brow

Literature and Labor in Antebellum America

The spread of industrialism, the emergence of professionalism, and the challenge to slavery fueled an anxious debate about the meaning and value of work in antebellum America.

In chapters on Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Rebecca Harding Davis, Susan Warner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Frederick Douglass, Nicholas Bromell argues that American writers generally sensed a deep affinity between the mental labor of writing and such bodily labors as blacksmithing, house building, housework, mothering, and farming. Combining literary and social history, canonical and noncanonical texts, primary source material, and contemporary theory, Bromell establishes work as an important subject of cultural criticism.

288 pages | 6 x 9 | © 1993

Literature and Literary Criticism: American and Canadian Literature

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Ain’t That Work?"
Pt. 1: The Works of Mind and Body
1: Manual Labor and the Problem of Literary Representation
2: The Meaning and Demeaning of Manual Labor at the Exhibitions of the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association
Pt. 2: Eros and Labor
3: The Erotics of Labor in Melville’s Redburn
4: Naturalized Labor and Natural History in Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
Pt. 3: Labor’s Gendered Body
5: Women Carved of Oak and Korl: The Female Body as the Site of Gendered Labor in Hawthorne and Davis
6: The Labored Discourse of Domesticity
7: Maternal Labor in the Work of "Literary Domestics": Catharine Maria Sedgwick and Susan Warner
8: Literary Composition as Maternal Labor in Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Pt. 4: Writing the Work of Slaves
9: The Meanings of Work and Song in Antebellum Slavery
10: Slavery, Work, and Song in Frederick Douglass’s Autobiographies
Pt. 5: Toward an Ontology of Labor
11: "By the Labor of My Hands Only": The Making and Unmaking of Walden

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