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What is Augusta's place in literature?

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Biographer William Perry Fidler faults Augusta Evans for her rejection of realism.   Augusta’s books present an idealized society and courageous heroines who are meant to be an example for the women who were her readers.   Like most Victorians, she embraced sentimental feelings and strong moral conviction.   Her critics in the press found no fault with the nobility of her aims but much fault with her writing.   A critic in The Nation denounced St. Elmo as absurd.  “And having decided on making use of bits of cyclopedias, apparently it violates none of (the author’s) notions of verisimilitude to have her characters talking these scraps of erudition in ordinary conversation.”

Today and for the last half century or more, very few people read Augusta’s books, but her work has attracted a positive response from a new generation of critics.    Feminists like Nina Baym in the 1970s began to see women writers of the nineteenth century in a new light.   The value in books like St. Elmo was not as works of art but as narratives of female empowerment.