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Margaret: A Tale of the Real and Ideal, Blight and Bloom

About the Author

Gavin Jones

Gavin Jones is the Frederick P. Rehmus Family Professor of the Humanities at Stanford University. He specializes in American literature of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. With a B.A. from Oxford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University, he also held a three-year fellowship in Harvard University’s Society of Fellows before coming to Stanford in 1999 as an assistant professor.

His three published books explore the power of literature to embody complex social problems and to uncover difficult ideas that often remain hidden in the culture at large. His first book, Strange Talk: The Politics of Dialect Literature in Gilded Age America (California 1999)...

University of Massachusetts Press
2009

As Gavin Jones points out in his new introduction, Margaret perhaps stands alone in its creation of a female character who grows in social rather than domestic power. The novel also remains unique in its exploration of transcendental philosophy in novelistic form. Part eco-criticism, part seduction novel, part temperance tract, and part social history, Margaret is a virtual handbook for understanding the literary culture of mid-nineteenth-century America, the missing piece in puzzling out connections between writers such as Hawthorne, Melville, Whitman, and Thoreau. 

Margaret was widely read and deeply influential on both British and American writers throughout the nineteenth century but controversial for its representations of alcoholism and capital punishment. Judd’s novel remains resonant for today’s readers as it overturns conventional views of the literary representation of women and the origins of the American Renaissance.