Jefferson Female Academy (Location Key)


Jefferson seems to contain both an Academy and a Female Academy, though the distinction between these two private secondary schools grows less clear across the four texts that mention one or the other or both - if indeed they are two separate institutions. The "Academy" is mentioned first, in "Knight's Gambit," where it is described as a co-educational "prep school" (205). Charles Mallison attends it on the eve of World War II, but a generation earlier his mother and several other upper class girls attended "the female half of the Academy" (153). In the three later novels that mention either or both Academies, there's no question about the gendered nature of the "Female" one. In The Town, for example, Gavin Stevens calls it an "anachronistic vacuum" (303): "one of the last of those gentle and stubbornly fading anachronisms called Miss So-and-So's or The So-and-So Female Academy or Institute whose curriculum included deportment and china-painting," and where young women are also taught that "not just American history but all history had not yet reached Christmas Day, 1865" - because the Civil War "was not done"; Gavin adds that these schools "continue to dot the South though the rest of the United States knows them no more" (300-01). It is clearly all-female in the earlier Requiem for a Nun, and very prestigious: acccording to that novel's narrator, "to a young woman of North Mississippi or West Tennessee" a graduation "certificate" from this finishing school would be as valuable as an "invitation . . . signed by Queen Victoria" would be to "a young female from Long Island or Philadelphia" (177). In The Town, on the other hand, it's only attended by a "dwindling few" young women (301). It's still there, however, in The Mansion - though to add still more confusion to the story, in that novel Linda Snopes, who attended the Academy in The Town, attends instead a place called the "Seminary," which is apparently another finishing school rather than, as its name suggests, a religious institution - unless one thinks of genteel culture as sacred. Rather than try to reconcile these conflicting accounts, we include separate entries for the "Academy" and the "Seminary."

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