Balancing the Centuries: The Literary Career of Margaret Deland

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1989

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Margaret Deland was once a widely recognized and critically respected turn of the century American writer. Today, Deland is hardly recognized except in specialized studies of religious fiction. This study aims to reacquaint the modern reader and critic with Deland's diverse body of fiction and non-fiction. Deland's novels, stories, and essays are strongly rooted in the cultural and social issues of late nineteenth and early twentieth century America. Deland felt the novelist's role as social observer and commentator was vitally important to a fiction' s composition and effect, and she consciously incorporated a clear moral vision and program into her work that sought to balance modern and traditional beliefs and behaviors. Particularly through the stories of Old Chester and Dr. Lavendar, her best known creations, Deland illustrated how this balance could be achieved and its impact felt in an individual's private and social relationships. The development of Deland's moral view will be a major component of this study. Also important to this study is the process of Deland' s rise and fall from public and critical view. The personal and public factors that contributed to Deland's sudden appearance on the literary scene, her developing appropriation of notice and acclaim, her eventual disappearance from public memory will be discussed. To accomplish this, extensive examination of Deland's fiction , non-fiction, and correspondence will be included. Finally, this study will apply various critical viewpoints to her works, especially feminist literary theories, to illustrate Deland's continuing value, not only as a cultural representative, but as a literary voice.

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