American Renaissance & American Romanticism:

Domestic Literature

Domestic and sentimental literature proved popular in the American Renaissance. Critical reactions, always mixed, are increasingly respectful as scholarship has reprinted forgotten writings and contextualized them as serious expressions of women's and families' realities during a time of change.

Domestic refers to home or family life (as today: domestic partnerships; domestic violence; department stores may classify housewares as domestics, or cleaning staffs may be domestics).

Genres: Domestic literature includes women's magazines, home economics (a.k.a. domestic science), advice, humor, true life stories, and fiction that is often sentimental or didactic.

Sentiment may simply be a synonym for feeling, emotion, or attitude. In literary criticism, however, sentimentality usually signifies a facile exploitation of emotions that are unearned or automatic.

Examples: a box full of puppies, a child's tears, the faithful servant, the forgiving father, aging athletes breaking down at retirement announcements


Earlier generations of critics (mostly men) regretted the domestic and sentimental aspects of American literature