Fuller's Leila

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Methodological Introduction

New historicism is premised upon an ideological attempt to wed the practice of history and literary criticism. In this type of textual analysis, the literary work is juxtaposed with historical events (characteristic of the time period in which the work was produced) in an effort to understand the implications within the text. This line of inquiry serves to recover a "historical consciousness" which may be utilized in the rendering of literary theory. "Poems and novels came to be seen in isolation, as urnlike objects of precious beauty. The new historicists, whatever their differences and however defined, want us to see that even the most unlike poems are caught in a web of historical conditions,
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Fuller's role as a nineteenth century intellectual, influential to American society, and her conceptualization of gender norms, as conveyed in "Leila" may be studied in an effort to historicize alternative forms of the gender construct, which emerged during this era. Literary deconstructive techniques provide a methodology in order to access the contradictions and tension present within Fuller's gender conceptualization and perception of intellectual roles. However, such techniques are not reflective of an adequate historical analysis, in that the assumption of some degree of universality and application of a framework which is contingent upon a methodology contextualized to the present seems to produce an analysis which is reflective of an intrinsic bias. The examination of Margaret Fuller's biography in the context of her specific gender conceptualization ultimately lends to the analysis of the manifestation of this ideology within her work.

In order to discuss the historical context which surrounded Fuller's "Leila", it is important to situate Fuller within the collective notion of Transcendentalism. Fuller's alternative conceptualization of the gender norm cannot be separated from her history as an intellectual. For Fuller, a large part of her