Little Women at 150

Edited by Daniel Shealy. Univ. of Mississippi, $30 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-4968-3799-8

The eight essays in this insightful collection spotlight the successes, conflicts, and legacy of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. In “Class, Charity, and Coming of Age in Little Women,” John Matteson focuses on the novel’s depictions of charity and its distinction between rich and poor, which he writes presents a “vision of an ideal America,” while in “Faithfulness Itself: The Imperative for Hannah Mullet in Little Women,” Sandra Harbert Petrulionis considers the March family’s idealized servant: “she is good-natured, loyal, and always ready to serve.” Gregory Eiselein argues that Alcott should be in the “literary hall of fame” (if one existed) in “Louisa May Alcott, Major Author: Little Women and Beyond,” and Beverly Lyon Clark makes a case in “Mobilizing the Little Women: Images of Transport and the Domestic” that the girls in the story traveled less often than the book’s “unusually mobile” author, and studies the book’s “gendering of transportation.” Some pieces tread on familiar terrain, such as the fan pressure that Alcott faced between the two volumes to “marry off” her heroines, and some entries drag a bit, but for the most part the contributors do a great job of considering the classic novel in original, surprising lights. Academics and literature students will savor these smart readings. (Mar.)
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