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Marriage, Property, and Women's Narratives addresses Virginia Woolf's question, 'Why are women poor?' Drawing from three different time periods and three distinct legal models of female property ownership, this study investigates how women writers frame their responses to both owning property and being property within the context of marriage. Beginning with the Middle Ages, Sally A. Livingston traces the loss of women's economic rights and skillfully argues that literary narratives allow these writers to take possession of property they would not otherwise be able to own.
Sally A. Livingston is an assistant professor of Humanities-Classics at Ohio Wesleyan University. She received her PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University in 2008, returning to academia after a twenty-five year career in investment management. Primarily a medievalist, she works at the intersection of literature, history, economics, and women's studies.
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'Livingston traces economic metaphors in women's writing to reveal that the marriage plot was most often deployed in literature when legal restrictions curtailed women's control of money, inheritance, and property. In investigating the work of English, French, and Russian authors from the twelfth through the twentieth centuries, Livingston provides a comparative, feminist analysis to demonstrate that women writers produced fantastical narratives of women's empowerment while living in milieux that afforded them little economic control. By contrast, she shows that where women retained the right to administer their own property, female writers focused their narratives more on women's agency, often illustrating a female protagonist's rejection of marriage and continued independence from patriarchal controls. A wide-ranging discussion that illustrates the effects of lived experience on women's narratives." - Virginia Blanton, associate professor and Chair, Department of English, University of Missouri-Kansas City
"One of the very important consequences of Livingston's research is that it compels us to shift our understanding of how women historically might have viewed themselves. She argues convincingly that if women were property and owned property, then part of the definition of themselves must perforce include comprehending themselves as property, as resource, as domain. Even more intriguing is the necessary subsequent question: if we accept this shift in our understanding, how will this affect our theories and perception of marriage as a theme in women's literature?" - M. C. Bodden, associate professor of English, Marquette University