Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing. 2016-09-01-11-38-07University of Georgia Press, 2016. 


Reviewed in Choice, April 2017: “Campbell’s analysis of the interplay between women authors (including screenwriters) and the medium of cinema is nothing less than astounding. The author covers a broad scope, including neglected writers such as Evelyn Scott as well as famous novelists such as Edith Wharton. Yet despite the incredible range of Campbell’s discussion, the book’s treatment of each element is meticulous in detail and gripping in presentation. Bitter Tastes should be required reading for any serious student of naturalism, women’s writing, or early film. Summing up: Essential. Upper-division Undergraduates through Faculty.”

Reviewed by Molly Freitas in Studies in the Novel 49.2 (Summer 2017): 280-281:Bitter Tastes is overall a truly impressive work, exhaustively researched and painstakingly argued. It is mandatory reading for literary critics of American women’s writing and naturalism, as well as for feminist and early American film critics. By invoking regional, sentimental, reform, and Modernist texts by American women writers, Campbell effectively explodes the parameters—and thus the reader’s understanding of those parameters—of naturalistic literature. However, by persuasively analyzing those texts through cinematic history and the commodified aesthetics of film production, Campbell makes an even more powerful argument for the necessity of interdisciplinary study as the best means to generate new forms of cultural understanding.”

Reviewed by Katherine Fusco in American Literary Realism 50.2 (Winter 2018): “The quibble some readers might have with the book, that it contains material enough for two manuscripts, is also the quality that gives Bitter Tastes the authority to make synthetic claims both small and lovely—in farm novels husbands “control the money and houses . . . but wives control the pie”—and large and  eld-shifting—servant women in modernist novels remind “modernism of what it leaves behind and the naturalistic elements that it can never erase.” For scholars and students of turn-of-the-century U.S. literature, this is a book to return to, again and again.”

Reviewed by Linda Kornasky in Studies in American Naturalism 11.2 (Winter 2016): “One may be quite sure that Campbell’s complex and nuanced emphases in this ambitious study—on women naturalists’ engagement with issus of reproduction, disability, and other biological matters—will lead naturalism studies into new terrain that will be worthy to explor further for many years into the future.”


Table of Contents


Chapter 1

Grim Realism and the Culture of Feeling: Rebecca Harding Davis, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, and Lillie Chace Wyman

Chapter 2

The Darwinists: Borderlands, Evolution, and Trauma

Chapter 3

Bohemian Time: Glasgow, Austin, and Cather

Chapter 4

Red Kimonos and White Slavery: The Fallen Woman in Film and print

Chapter 5

Where Are My Children? Race, Citizenship, and the Stolen Child

Chapter 6

“Manure Widows” and Middlebrow Fiction: Rural Naturalism in the 1920s

Chapter 7

Waste, Hoarding, and Secrets: Modernist Naturalism and the Servant’s Body


Authors include the following:

  • Bess Streeter Aldrich
  • Mary Austin
  • Estelle Baker
  • Madeleine Blair
  • Virginia Brooks
  • Willa Cather
  • Kate Chopin
  • Kate Cleary
  • Rebecca Harding Davis
  • Mary Hallock Foote
  • Mary Wilkins Freeman
  • Alice Dunbar-Nelson
  • Sui Sin Far
  • Edna Ferber
  • Zona Gale
  • Ellen Glasgow
  • Emanuel and Anna Marcet Haldeman-Julius
  • Fannie Hurst
  • Edith Summers Kelley
  • Nella Larsen
  • Batterman Lindsay
  • Miriam Michelson
  • Elia Peattie
  • Ann Petry
  • Elizabeth Stuart Phelps
  • Elizabeth Robins
  • Evelyn Scott
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Edith Wharton
  • Lillie Buffum Chace Wyman
  • with side trips to Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, W. D. Howells, Theodore Dreiser, Harold Frederic, and Jack London. (Also, as the title says, silent films.)

rrResisting Regionalism: Gender and Naturalism in American Fiction, 1885-1915. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1997.  Northeastern Modern Language Association-Ohio University Press Book Award, 1995.

 Reviewed in American Literary Scholarship 1997 (Duke), Legacy, Modern Fiction Studies, American Literary Realism, Amerikastudien/American Studies, The Edith Wharton Review, Choice, and Studies in the Novel. Authored. Refereed.

“Dreiser, London, Crane, and the Iron Madonna.” Reprinted in American Literary Naturalism. Ed. Harold Bloom.  New York: Chelsea House, 2004.

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