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Fall River Summary

Fall River: An Authentic Narrative by Catharine Read Arnold Williams

Catharine Williams (1787-1872) lived most of her life in Rhode Island, where she supported herself and her daughter by a productive literary career. Her most compelling work, Fall River, last published in 1833, recreates a notorious incident in the ill-fated town of Fall River, Massachusetts: the trial of a Methodist minister for the murder of a pregnant mill worker whom it was suspected he had seduced. Williams's investigative report offers a vivid contemporary view of the lives of poor "factory girls" and of clerical corruption in the industrial towns of early New England. While based in fact, the book raises themes of sexual and religious hypocrisy and exploitation that may be compared with those of novels like The Coquette, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and The Scarlet Letter. At the same time, the author's mixture of journalism, biography, fiction, and exhortation makes this "authentic narrative" an unusual challenge to traditional notions of literary form and yields fresh insights into the nature of early American women's writing.

Fall River Reviews

Reviews from the cloth edition: "The story of Hester Prynne, had she worked in a factory. It pivotally locates women's sexuality amid industrialization, familial dispersion, religious fervor, and the American juridical system."-Russ Castronovo, University of Miami
Praise for the series: "Publishing these previously unknown or ignored volumes by women will revolutionize the canon of English and American literature taught in graduate and undergraduate courses. The list of texts is impressive. It includes some of the most important scholarship now under way in the field of Renaissance literature."-Margaret Hannay, Siena College
"Making these writers available in an easily accessible form contributes significantly not only to feminist scholarship, which has been seeking to recover the works of such writers for two decades, but also to teaching and scholarship more generally within the humanities, from the freshman level to the most specialized postgraduate level."-Marlon Ross, University of Michigan
"The texts chosen form an extremely interesting and quite varied group, and the prospect of having them in book form is exciting. Scholars and students will be much richer for it."-Carolyn Dinshaw, University of California, Berkeley

Additional information

Fall River: An Authentic Narrative by Catharine Read Arnold Williams
Oxford University Press Inc
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