The Three Rs: Reading, (W)riting, and Romance in Class Mobility Narratives by Yezierska, Smedley and Saxton

Launius, Christie
October 2007
College Literature;Fall2007, Vol. 34 Issue 4, p125
Academic Journal
Literary Criticism
This essay examines how constructions of womanhood and femininity affect the working-class encounter with the academy in three early to mid-twentieth-century American novels that feature female protagonists: Agnes Smedley's "Daughter of Earth," Alexander Saxton's "The Great Midland" and Anzia Yezierska's "Bread Givers." Each of these novels weaves together a narrative of desire for education and desire for love. While these women are trying to obtain upward class mobility through education rather than marriage, and while Smedley and Saxton's novels contain the added element of involvement in Socialist and Communist politics, all three protagonists end up unable to escape the romance plot. Taken together, these novels offer valuable insights into the gendered nature of class mobility.


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