Barbara Penner


On her book Newlyweds on Tour: Honeymooning in Nineteenth-Century America

Cover Interview of September 27, 2009

In a nutshell

Newlyweds on Tour is the first historical study to trace the origins and growth of the American honeymoon from 1820 to 1900.  Rather than treating the honeymoon as a simple by-product of the privatization of the family, I argue that it was formed at the interstices of and helped articulate a variety of narratives -– patriotic, conjugal, sentimental, and sexual – that were central to modern American national identity.

To track these narratives, I move between primary accounts of newlywed experiences (diaries and letters) and a wide range of textual, visual and architectural representations (maps of matrimonial love, engravings from the popular press, sentimental and sensation novels, wedding night pornography, and palace hotel bridal chambers).  This interdisciplinary analysis tracks the specific ways in which newlyweds on tour prompted individual and collective feelings of attachment, whether to the ideals of egalitarian marriage, domesticity, nation or sentiment itself.

Above all, I am interested in how the honeymoon helped to consummate the romance of consumption.  It was the ultimate union of sentiment and commerce, a union that continues to thrive in today’s ways of wedding.