'The Magic Circle'

Women and Community Formation of a Frontier Village in Caroline Kirkland's New Home – Who'll Follow?

in Volume 16 (2004): Issue 3 (Dec 2004)
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With these seemingly apologetic words, Caroline Kirkland initiates her narrative New Home – Who’ll Follow? (1839) about life in a village on the Michigan frontier in the 1830s. However, ‘the common- place occurrences’ and the ‘gossip about every-day people’ that Kirkland describes are an important contribution to American literature. In 1846, Edgar Allen Poe went so far as to say that her book was an ‘undoubted sensation’. Kirkland writes about one particular aspect of the American experience – life on the frontier. While many authors of the time have tackled this particular American topic, Kirkland carves out a niche for her work by claiming to tell the truth. Her contemporaries and modern scholars alike praised her descriptions of frontier life for the realistic detail which critics found rare in an age of sentimental romances or tall-tale adventure stories about the West.

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