Ariel Clark Silver's absorbing new monograph The Book of Esther and the Typology of Female Transfiguration in American Literature, written from the thick intersection of literary and religious studies, takes as its subject the figure of the ancient dissenting holy woman as seen in the Biblical Queen Esther and the critically neglected significance of that figure in nineteenth-century US literature at a moment when “the female gospel of love over the male gospel of sacrifice and self, was a novel and important act” (ix).

Silver conceives her book as a reply to John Gatta's work (American Madonna, Oxford UP, 1977) regarding “the place of the Virgin Mother in the literature of nineteenth-century Protestant America” (vii). In response to Gatta, Silver, while admiring Gatta's work, sees him “miss[ing] the central point” in writings by Nathaniel Hawthorne and others, that “Hester Prynne, Zenobia, Miriam, Esther Dudley, and the eternal...

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