28 A women on her own and knows what she wants? Must be feminism.

Willow Moulton

The only author-focused paper that I’ve written and remember is my critical essay from “Rethinking Early American Literature.” I wrote about The Female American by Unca Eliza Winkfield, a story about a mixed race wealthy woman who uses an idol that indigenous peoples worship to change their beliefs. My original thesis was that “The Female American is an imperialist text based on the main protagonist’s religious intolerance as she tries to proselytize indigenous peoples through stolen power.” My argument changed a lot within this essay, which I didn’t realize until looking back now. I went from looking at the context in the story to looking at the author’s intention, using feminism as my basis. As “The Intentional Fallacy” argues, however, “[t]he evaluation of the work of art remains public; the work is measured against something outside the author.” This quote from the article is perfect for this text because I recall the main discussion of the class being whether or not the text is feminist, and nowhere in the text itself does it directly reference feminism. Our discussion was completely rooted in the public.

This text written as if it is based off of the author’s own life and I think that is important to know in this evaluation. As Wimsatt and Beardsley write, however, “there is the fault of writing the personal as if it were poetic.” They argue that a piece of literature goes out into the world and gets judged apart from the author. It becomes something completely different and in this case it’s hard because the piece of literature is the author’s own life. I’d like to highlight how much negativity I got out of this text and put into my author-based paper. It went from an argument on how Unca took over indigenous peoples through an imperialist approach to arguing that the text was not feminist: “And she refused to marry a man who couldn’t shoot a bow as well as her. A women on her own and knows what she wants? Must be feminism.” But within the changing argument, I believe the paper connects the text to the protagonist (rather than the author’s intention), which is what Wimsatt and Beardsley were trying to get at.

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