Maine stream: A bibliographical reception study of Sarah Orne Jewett

Date of Completion

January 2005


Literature, American




The critical reception of Sarah Orne Jewett has oscillated dramatically over the last century. Contemporary reviews praised her as a writer whose appreciation for and deep understanding of New England and its people transcended local concerns and brought sympathetic, realistic depictions of Maine to the far coasts of the United States and Europe. Literary critics from the 1930s and 1940s, however, stereotyped Jewett as “an old-fashioned local colorist” whose writing was too simplistic to warrant critical attention. Since the 1970s, however, and particularly thanks to feminist literary critics, Jewett has been rediscovered and is now well reestablished in the canon of American literature. She has reentered the mainstream. ^ My project's main task has been to assemble an updated, corrected, and newly annotated Sarah Orne Jewett bibliography that accounts for all secondary critical comment on Jewett's work spanning the years 1869 to 2004. This 762-page comprehensive study, consisting of over 1800 references, locates and identifies new items previously unaccounted for in earlier bibliographies, reexamines all previously identified items to provide new annotations that specifically evaluate Jewett's changing critical reception, and updates the previous bibliographies from 1984 to the present. Each reference includes a quotation from the original item. For early pieces written during Jewett's lifetime, this quotation acts as a snapshot: it encapsulates a period of time, captures the writer's style, and indicates his or her critical perception of Jewett's work. Reading the variety of items for this era and noting the diversity of geographical sources, voices, and viewpoints provides a unique understanding of Jewett's celebrity status and popularity during her lifetime, and helps to solidify Jewett's reputation as a national author and not merely the regional “local color” writer she has so often been considered. For later entries, such as those from dissertations and scholarly articles, the quotations incorporate key words that link the writer's use of Jewett to a larger critical school. The bibliography is introduced by a chapter-length essay that examines and evaluates the scope of Jewett's continually evolving critical reception, outlines major critical trends, and projects the future of Jewett scholarship. ^