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Ruth Bloch's stellar essays on the origins of Anglo-American conceptions of gender and morality are brought together in this valuable book, which collects six of her most influential pieces in one place for the first time and includes two new essays. The volume illuminates the overarching theme of her work by addressing a basic historical question: Why did the attitudes toward gender and family relations that we now consider traditional values emerge when they did? Bloch looks deeply into eighteenth-century culture to answer this question, highlighting long-term developments in religion, intellectual history, law, and literature, showing that the eighteenth century was a time of profound transformation for women's roles as wives and mothers, for ideas about sexuality, and for notions of female moral authority.
She engages topics from British moral philosophy to colonial laws regarding courtship, and from the popularity of the sentimental novel to the psychology of religious revivalism. Lucid, provocative, and wide-ranging, these eight essays bring a revisionist challenge to both women's studies and cultural studies as they ask us to reconsider the origins of the system of gender relations that has dominated American culture for two hundred years.
Ruth H. Bloch is Professor in the Department of History and former Chair of Women's Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, and prize-winning author of Visionary Republic: Millennial Themes in American Thought, 1756-1800 (1985).
"All Bloch's chapters are worthwhile and, together, they form an excellent collection that is greater than the sum of its parts."—Joanne Van Der Woude American Literature
"A wonderfully original and courageous collection of essays, at once an incisive critique of feminist theoretical preoccupation with wealth and power and a compelling case for grounding domesticity more firmly in the eighteenth century. Arguing for a ‘culturalist’ approach, its attention to Anglo-American courtship, love, motherhood, virtue, and morality speaks as vividly to recent debates about the ‘crisis of the family’ as it does to historical intersections of gender, religion, and political and economic thought."—Carol Karlsen, author of The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England
"Ruth H. Bloch has long been known as one of our most acute historians of cultural life during the period of the American Revolution and Early Republic; moreover, she has a particularly strong reputation as an essayist. The gathering of the pieces included in this volume is, therefore, an occasion of special interest and appreciation. Gender, mentality, moral life in its various aspects: on these important subjects Professor Bloch has repeatedly thrown a fresh and altogether invaluable light."—John Demos, author of A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony