Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Cultural Studies

Editor-in-Chief: Miller, Toby

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

The Politics of Genre and Gender in Tabitha Gilman Tenney’s Female Quixotism

Dragoş Ivana
Published Online: 2017-12-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0043


The present article focuses on transatlantic female quixotism, as enacted by Tabitha Tenney’s heroine, Dorcasina Sheldon. I argue that quixotism can be read as an interface between the events of the story and the Federalist conservative discourse that underlies them. In doing so, I claim that, in terms of gender, the heroine’s misreading of romances transforms her into a political tool whereby the ideals of female freedom and agency, social mobility, gender equality, racial equity and abolitionism-effective under Thomas Jefferson’s administration-are satirically depicted and seen as delusory in post-Revolutionary America. In terms of generic categories, I will show how Female Quixotism blurs the epistemological boundaries between truth and fiction by juxtaposing novel and romance, used interchangeably, with history.

Keywords: early American novel; romance; the female quixote; misreading; Federalism


  • Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World. Trans. Helene Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.Google Scholar

  • Bannet, Eve Tavor. “Quixotes, Imitations, and Transatlantic Genres.” Eighteenth-Century Studies 40.4 (2007): 553-569.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Carnell, Rachel, Alison Tracy Hale. “Romantic Transports. Tabitha Tenney’s Female Quixotism in Transatlantic Contex.” Early American Literature 46.3 (2011): 517-539.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Davidson, Cathy N. Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.Google Scholar

  • Drexler, Michael J., Ed White. The Traumatic Colonel: The Founding Fathers, Slavery, and the Phantasmatic Aaron Burr. New York and London: New York University Press, 2014.Google Scholar

  • Fielding, Henry. The Covent-Garden Journal. Vol. 2. Ed. G. E. Jensen. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1915.Google Scholar

  • Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1957. Gilmore, Michael T. The Literature of the Revolutionary and Early National Periods. Cambridge Histories Online: Cambridge University Press, 2008.Google Scholar

  • Gordon, Paul Scott. The Practice of Quixotism: Postmodern Theory and Eighteenth-Century Women’s Writing. New York: Palgrave, Macmillan, 2006.Google Scholar

  • Hanlon, Aaron R. “Toward a Counter-Poetics of Quixotism.” Studies in the Novel 46.2 (Summer 2014): 141-158.Google Scholar

  • Harris, Sharon. “Lost Boundaries: The Use of the Carnivalesque in Tabitha Tenney’s Female Quixotism.” Speaking the Other Self: American Women Writers. Ed. Jeanne Campbell Reesman. Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1997: 213-228.Google Scholar

  • Johnson, Samuel. “The Rambler, 4 (31 March 1750).” The Works of Samuel Johnson. Vol. 2. London: F. C. and J. Rivington, 1823: 20-27.Google Scholar

  • McKeon, Michael. The Origins of the English Novel, 1600-1740. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.Google Scholar

  • --. “Prose fiction: Great Britain.” The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism. Vol. 4. Eds. H. B. Nisbet, Claude Rawson. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008: 238- 263.Google Scholar

  • Stavans, Ilan. Quixote: The Novel and the World. New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2015.Google Scholar

  • Staves, Susan. “Don Quixote in Eighteenth-Century England.” Comparative Literature 24.3 (1972): 193-215.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Tenney, Tabitha Gilman. Female Quixotism: Exhibited in the Romantic Opinions and Extravagant Adventures of Dorcasina Sheldon. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.Google Scholar

  • Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957.Google Scholar

  • Wood, Sarah F. Quixotic Fictions of the USA, 1792-1815. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2017-09-06

Accepted: 2017-12-09

Published Online: 2017-12-22

Published in Print: 2017-12-20

Citation Information: Open Cultural Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1, Pages 468–474, ISSN (Online) 2451-3474, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/culture-2017-0043.

Export Citation

© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in