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Emily VanDette publishes new book on sibling relationships in literature
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cover of Emily VanDette book

Dr. Emily VanDette of SUNY Fredonia has written a new book, “Sibling Romance in American Fiction, 1835-1900,” which establishes the narrative of sibling love as a culturally significant tradition in 19th century American fiction.

With a focus on novels written during the antebellum through post-Civil War eras, VanDette’s book examines fictional siblings, notably in the context of national crises ranging from South Carolina’s threat to secede from the union in the 1830s to the post-Reconstruction crisis of racial segregation in the 1890s.

By utilizing historical study, literary analysis, philosophical methods and psychoanalysis, VanDette suggests that, by significantly shifting the focus of narratives from courtship to sibling love, these novels contribute to historical conversations about affiliation in such tumultuous contexts as sectional divisions, debates over slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction.

She is the first scholar to examine the important issue of brother-sister ties in 19th century American literature. VanDette reasons that domestic fiction writers used the sibling relationship to address the tensions between independence and solidarity during a challenging period of America history.

“Sibling Romance in American Fiction, 1835-1900” is the first book-length study of a bond that had enormous cultural and literary significance, especially in the framework of anxieties about national unity and the rights of the individual. It promises to draw the interest of scholars of American literature, American history, American studies and family studies.

The author, assistant professor of English, received support to complete the book, published by Palgrave Macmillan, from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her doctorate, from the Pennsylvania State University, focused on 19th century American women’s literature. She is also a graduate of SUNY Fredonia.

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