(From The Campus Lantern – April 30th, 2015)
On Wednesday, April 8, Dr. Allison Speicher, Assistant Professor of the English Department, held an informational session as part of the Author Series @ Smith Library about her book entitled “Schooling Readers: Reading Common Schools in Nineteenth-Century American Fiction,” forthcoming from the University of Alabama Press. The book focuses on four main themes in reform fiction: teachers adopting children, violence against teachers, spelling bees and school exhibitions, and school romance. In the session, Dr. Speicher discussed the latter theme.
She noted that through her research she found that more than 70 out of the 125 stories that she discovered featured romance plots. There were only four examples of schoolmistresses marrying schoolboys; instead, a majority of the plots included schoolmasters marrying schoolgirls. This may have been because of the fact that in the nineteenth century more girls were going to school than ever before. But it also raises the question of whether schools were meant to educate girls intellectually or to prepare them for wifehood and motherhood.
“Schooling Readers” explores this question and many more. Once the book is released in the fall of 2016, it will be available in the Smith Library.
Dr. Speicher received her Ph.D. in English, with a specialty in nineteenth-century American literature, from Indiana University Bloomington. At Indiana University, she taught a range of courses, including courses on tomboys and single women. At Eastern, she teaches American and children’s literature, drawing on her experiences working at an inner-city high school to help prepare future educators. She is wrapping up this semester with her College Writing and Children’s Literature classes, as well as a special topic English and Women’s Studies cross-listed class, the Golden Age of American Tomboy. Next semester, Dr. Speicher will teach Literary Analysis, Survey of American Literature, and the Nineteenth-Century American Short Story.