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Carpenter, Mary Wilson 1937-

Carpenter, Mary Wilson 1937-

PERSONAL:

Born December 12, 1937. Education: Brown University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of English, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Educator and writer. Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, began as professor of English and taught in the Women's Studies Institute, became professor emerita. Also served as lecturer in history and literature at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

WRITINGS:

George Eliot and the Landscape of Time: Narrative Form and Protestant Apocalyptic History, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1986.

Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies: Women, Sexuality, and Religion in the Victorian Market, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 2003.

Contributor to books, including Victorian Sages & Cultural Discourse: Renegotiating Gender and Power, edited by Thais E. Morgan, Rutgers University Press, 1990; Postmodern Apocalypse: Theory and Cultural Practice at the End, edited by Richard Dellamora, University Pennsylvania Press, 1995; The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States, Oxford University Press, 1995; Feminist Literary Theory, edited by Elizabeth Kowaleski-Wallace, Garland, 1996; Anti-Feminism in the Academy, edited by Veve Clark, Shirley Nelson Garner, Margaret Higonnet, and Ketu H. Katrak, Routledge, 1996; and Frances Trollope and the Novel of Social Change, edited by Brenda Ayres, Greenwood Press, 2002. Contributor to journals, including PMLA, Diacritics, Genders, Literature and History, and Milton Studies. Member of the editorial boards of Genders, English Studies in Canada and 19th-Century Feminisms.

SIDELIGHTS:

Mary Wilson Carpenter studies and teaches literature. Her areas of expertise include Victorian literature and literary theory, primarily eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British women writers and nineteenth-century American women writers, with a focus on the history of sexuality, gender studies, and feminist theory. Her first book, George Eliot and the Landscape of Time: Narrative Form and Protestant Apocalyptic History, examines the role of Protestant religious and apocalyptic beliefs in the writing and themes of the famous female novelist George Eliot.

"Although scholars have repeatedly scrutinized George Eliot's religious beliefs, her youthful interest in prophecy ‘fulfilled and unfulfilled’ has gone largely unremarked," the author writes in her book. "Yet her first conception of history seems to have taken shape in the school of ‘continuous historical’ exposition of the Book of Revelation. This clerical, millenarian tradition—a prominent aspect of British exegesis since the Reformation—reached new heights of scholarly development, as well as popular interest, during the Victorian era."

The author begins by exploring Eliot's work in relation to the School of Prophets. Chapter two is titled "History and Hermeunetics in Adam Bede." Carpenter then looks at apocalyptic themes and the apocalypse within Eliot's novel Middlemarch. Her final two chapters are "The Apocalypse of the Old Testament" and "Revising the Christian Year."

Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies: Women, Sexuality, and Religion in the Victorian Market, published in 2003, is a study of how commercial religious literature was produced and used by the public during the Victorian era, especially by Victorian women. Writing in English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, Anya Clayworth commented that the book "is detailed, extremely well cross-referenced and researched and has a thorough bibliography."

In the first part of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies, titled "The Authorized Version of the Marketplace," the author looks at typical British family bibles and their changing presentation of family values over different periods. As the author points out in her introduction, part two of the book, "Consuming the Authorized Version," "analyzes the construction of gender and sexuality in literary texts by Victorian women in relation to three other specific genres of Victorian commercial religious publication: dissenting bible commentaries sold in installments, Family Bible dictionaries, and popular apocalyptic interpretations."

In her analysis, the author shows how commercial bible publication influenced women and families in society and how women, in turn, gained influence in the male-dominated publishing world. As the primary purchasers of bibles, women represented the most important target audience for bible publishers, which ultimately resulted in a less-pronounced patriarchal view of families in bible commentaries and other religious writings. Writing in the book's conclusion, the author comments on the importance of studying commercial bibles and other religious texts of the time in relation to their impact on Victorian society and literature. She notes: "These for-profit religious genres are ‘concrete’ evidence of what British consumers wanted to buy, of how they saw themselves, or how they wished to see themselves. They elaborate for the student of literature and culture the ‘common sense’ of British families in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries."

Each chapter in the book includes reviews of current scholarly literature. Also included is an appendix that lists various versions of family bibles from the late seventeenth century through the nineteenth century. Writing in Christianity and Literature, Cheri L. Larsen Hoeckley noted that these components of the book are "worth more than the cost of the book, and her readings of those various editions consistently repay the reader's time invested in them." Other reviewers also commended the author's scholarship. "The major strength of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies is its introduction of the British Family Bible as an object of scholarly study," wrote Suzanne Kaufman in a review on H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. "From this original contribution, Carpenter is initially able to generate a good many acute insights into this for-profit religious genre." Writing in the Modern Language Review, Emma Major noted that "this is a fascinating and previously neglected group of texts, and Carpenter's study should be welcomed."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Carpenter, Mary Wilson, George Eliot and the Landscape of Time: Narrative Form and Protestant Apocalyptic History, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1986.

Carpenter, Mary Wilson, Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies: Women, Sexuality, and Religion in the Victorian Market, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 2003.

PERIODICALS

Choice, May, 2004, L.J. Greenspoon, review of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies, p. 1680.

Christianity and Literature, summer, 2006, Cheri L. Larsen Hoeckley, review of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies, p. 608.

English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920, spring, 2005, Anya Clayworth, review of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies, p. 82.

Journal of British Studies, July, 2005, Patricia S. Kruppa, review of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies, p. 631.

Modern Language Review, April, 2005, Emma Major, review of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies, p. 492.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2004, review of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies, p. 23.

ONLINE

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online,http://www.h-net.org/ (January 1, 2007), Suzanne Kaufman, review of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies.

Queen's University English Department Web site,http://www.queensu.ca/english/ (August 11, 2008), faculty profile of author.

Writings Web log,http://rgrydns.blogspot.com/ (May 19, 2006), Richard Greydanus, "The Imperialization of Britain's Missionary Nationalism," includes review of Imperial Bibles, Domestic Bodies.

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