Laurel V. Hankins, “The Art of Retreat: Salmagundi’s Elbow-Chair Domesticity” (pp. 431–456)
James Kirke Paulding and William and Washington Irving’s literary periodical Salmagundi; or, the Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq. and Others (1807) has been incorporated into accounts of Washington Irving’s protoromanticism that define American romanticism through an oppositional relationship between the aesthetic retreat of the artist and the consensus-driven consumerism of a feminized reading public. This essay argues that through the self-conscious assumption of bachelor pseudonyms, the Salmagundi editors’ aggressively masculine domestic retreat can be read as a reaction to the insufficiently reductive categories of a literary culture increasingly organized by gender difference. Even as the Salmagundi bachelor-editors mock the performative virtue of feminine domesticity, their own humorous social critique works to reestablish the possibility of making reform feel in tune with natural impulses. The bachelors locate the source of their imaginative whimsy within the domestic sphere’s supposed transcendence of social artifice and market pressures, but they also claim authorship by distinguishing their imaginative output from the termagant’s domestic labor. Because the editors’ reformative project depends on readers recognizing the alienated bachelor as a humorous literary type, the hostile relationship to its readers that has earned Salmagundi a place in narratives of Irving’s protoromanticism actually signals a collaborative relationship with readers who are repeatedly forced to acknowledge the editors’ authorial design.
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