American Women Writers before the 19th Century* Fall 2010

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AWW before the 19th C

American Women Writers before the 19th Century

Fall 2010

Instructor: Dr. Kai-ling Liu

Level of students: MA and Ph. D students

Office hours: By appointment.

Phone: (O) 52242 e-mail:
Course Description

This course engages itself in the feminist attempt to recover women’s voices with a focus on 18th-century American women writers’ prose work. The four women writers selected for our study are those who produced their writings primarily in the 18th century. Sarah Kemble Knight (1666-1727) was a business woman and a teacher who was recognized for The Journal of Madame Knight which she kept during her journey from Boston to New York between 1704 and 1705 but was published posthumously in 1825. Judith Sargent Murray (1751-1820) was an early women’s rights advocator whose short novel, “The Story of Margaretta” reflects what is called the “Republican Motherhood,” a character that distinguishes the female protagonist from most heroines in the seduction novel of the time. Charlotte Temple (1791) by Susanna Rowson (1762-1824) who was a prolific writer, actress, and teacher, and The Coquette (1797) by Hannah W. Foster (1762-1837) were the two best-selling novels in early American literature. Together, the four writers and their works reveal the ideology and the material conditions under which these women writers produced their texts.

The aims of this course are 1) to study the conditions of women’s writing and publications, 2) to explore how these writers speak to these conditions, and 3) to engage the students in a dialogue with critics of early American literature, esp. those of early American women writers, by completing the term paper—a potential conference paper.

Mandatory Attendance 10% Every absence will result in a loss of 2 points of the terms grades.

Class participation 10%

Facilitation 30% See Appendix I for instructions. (p. 7)

Paper proposal 20% For the format, see Appendix II. (p. 9)

Term paper 30% 8-10 pages for MA students. 15-20 pages for Ph.D. students.

Primary Sources

Foster, Hannah W.. The Coquette. New York: Oxford UP, 1986. (On reserve)

Harris, Sharon M. Selected Writings of Judith Sargent Murray. Ed. Sharon M. Harris. New York: Oxford UP, 1995. (On reserve)

Knight, Sarah Kemble. The Journal of Madame Knight. Massachusetts: Applewood Books, 1992. (On reserve)

Rowson, Susanna. Charlotte Temple; and, Lucy Temple. New York: Penguin Books, 1991. (On reserve)
Class Schedule

W01 09/13 Course introduction

W02 09/20 Literature review of background and archival materials

  1. Andrews, William L., Annette Kolodny, Daniel B. Shea, Sargent Bush Jr., Amy Schrager Lang. ed. Introduction. Journeys in New Worlds: Early American Women's Narratives. Madison: U. of Wisconsin Press, 1990. 3-10. (On reserve)

  2. Harris, Sharon. Introduction. American Women Writers to 1800. Ed. by Harris. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996. 3-30. (On reserve)

  3. Berkin, Carol. Preface. First Generations: Women in Colonial America. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996. viii-xiv. (On reserve)

Sarah Kemble Knight,

W03 09/27 The Journal of Madame Knight

  1. Bush, Sargent, Jr., ed. Introduction. “The Journal of Madam Knight.” Liberty’s Daughters: the Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1996. 69-86.

W04 10/04 1. Michaelsen, Scott. “Narrative and Class in a Culture of Consumption: The Significance of Stories in Sarah Kemble Knight's Journal.” College Literature 21:2 (1994): 33-46.

  1. Bassnett, Susan. “Constructing Cultures: the Politics of Travellers’ Tales.” Comparative Literature: A Critical Introduction. By Bassnett. Oxford, UK and Cambridge, USA: Blackwell, 1998. 92-114.

Judith S. Murray

W05 10/11 "On the Equality of the Sexes" (Harris 1995, 3-14)

“Story of Margaretta” (Harris 1995, 153-272)

  1. Harris, Sharon M. Introduction. Selected Writings of Judith Sargent Murray. Ed. Harris. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995 xv-xliv.

W06 10/18 1. Jacoba, Madelon. “The Early Novella as Political Message: The Margaretta Story by Judith Sargent Murray.” Studies in the Humanities 18.2 (1991): 146-64.
Susanna Rowson

W07 10/25 Susanna Rowson, Charlotte Temple

W08 11/01 1. Bannet, Eve Tavor. Immigrant Fictions: Mathew Carey, Susanna Rowson, and Charlotte Temple in Philadelphia. Age of Johnson: A Scholarly Annual. 19 (2009): 239-272.
Murray and Rowson

W09 11/08 1. Kritzer, Amelia Howe. “Playing with Republican Motherhood: Self-Representation in Plays by Susanna Haswell Rowson and Judith Sargent Murray.” Early American Literature 31.2 (1996): 150-166.

cf. Stern, Julia. “Working through the Frame: Charlotte Temple and the Poetics of Maternal Melancholia.” Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory. 49.4 (1993): 1-32.
Hannah Webster Foster

W10 11/15 Hannah Webster Foster, The Coquette

W11 11/22

  1. Harris, Sharon M. “Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette: Critiquing Franklin's America.” Redefining the Political Novel: American Women Writers, 1797-1901. Ed. Sharon M. Harris. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1995. 1-22.

cf. Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll. “Subject Female: Authorizing American Identity.” American Literary History. 5.3 (1993): 481-511.

  1. Wakabayashi, Makiko. “Female Friendship in Hannah Webster Foster's The Coquette: A Legacy of the Seduction Novel.” Studies in English Literature. 47 (2006): 161-79.

Rowson and Foster

W11 11/29

  1. Sohn, Jeonghee. “Theory and Practice of Female Bonding in The Coquette and Charlotte Temple.” Feminist Studies in English Literature. 13.1 (2005): 87-107.

  2. Hansen, Klaus P. “The Sentimental Novel and Its Feminist Critique.” Early American Literature. 26. 1 (1991): 39-54.

  3. Evans, Gareth. “Rakes, Coquettes and Republican Patriarchs: Class, Gender and Nation in Early American Sentimental Fiction.” Canadian Review of American Studies. 25.3 (1995): 41-62.

W12 12/06 Discussion: research problems with bibliography

W13 12/13 Individual conference (proposal discussion)

W14 12/20 Paper writing

W15 12/27 Paper writing

W16 01/03 Paper presentation

W17 01/10 Revised paper due

W18 01/17 Individual conference


Useful Links

  • The Norton Anthology of American Literature Student Website

The Norton Anthology of American Literature Student Website provides on-line resources of American Literature. The website includes period introductions, questions for discussions, writing and research of selected authors based on the six periods in the timeline of American literature: To 1820, 1820~1865, 1865~1914, 1914~1945, and Since 1945.

  • The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women Website

The Norton Anthology of Literature by Women Website features six topics that are organized to provide an overview of a cultural, historical, or literary context of selected works in the anthology. The six topics include: (1) Killing the Angel: Anxieties about Motherhood for Women Writers (2) Wrestling with Eve (3) Women’s Education: A History of the Feminist Polemic (4) The Ecstasy of Influence: Inspiration and Mentorship among Women Writers (5) Toward a Feminist Utopia: Women’s Same-Sex Communities, Real and Imagined (6) Re-appropriating Mythology.

  • Literature Online (access available at the NCKU Library website): Welcome to Literature Online, a fully searchable library of more than 350,000 works of English and American poetry, drama and prose, 323 full-text literature journals, and other key criticism and reference resources. 6 new Full-Text Journals, 100 new and updated Biographies


Andrews, William L., Annette Kolodny, Daniel B. Shea, Sargent Bush Jr., Amy Schrager Lang. ed. Journeys to New Worlds: Early American Women's Narratives. Madison: U. of Wisconsin Press, 1990. [On Mary Rowlandson, Sarah Kemble, Elizabeth Ashbridge, and Elizabeth H. Trist.] (On reserve)

Berkin, Carol. First Generations: Women in Colonial America. New York: Hill and Wang, 1996. (NCKU library; white women in the 17th-c Chesapeake, New England women in the 17th-c, native American women in the centuries of colonization, women in the middle colonies, African-American women in colonial society, class and regional differences in the 18th-c, women in the American revolution, white women in the new republic) (On reserve)

Brown, William H., and Hannah W. Foster. The Power of Sympathy and The Coquette. Ed. William S. Osborne. New Haven: College and University Press, 1970. (On reserve)

Davidson, Cathy N. Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America. 1st ed. 1987. Oxford UP, 2004. (On reserve)

Harris, Sharon, ed. American Women Writers to 1800. New York and Oxford: Oxford UP, 1996. (This anthology advances the ongoing process of filling documentary and intellectual gaps in our knowledge of early American culture. Including the writings of more than ninety women (many of whom have never before been published), the anthology captures cultural and individual diversity in early America. The collection both complements and extends earlier studies of colonial and revolutionary America with works that observe the natural resources of the "New World", the proliferation of religious movements, racial relations between Native Americans, African-Americans, and European settlers, and patriotic and loyalist sympathies during the Revolutionary years. Other issues raised include themes such as women's education, girlhood, childbirth, sexuality, the legal status of women, domestic economy, and the rise of feminist philosophies at the end of the 18th century. This anthology offers rich ground for a radical rethinking of early American women's lives and writings, and challenges our assumptions about early America itself.) (On reserve)

Harris, Sharon, ed. Women's Early American Historical Narratives. Penguin: 2003. (This fascinating collection presents a rare look at women writers' first-hand perspectives on early American history. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries many women authors began to write historical analysis, thereby taking on an essential role in defining the new American Republicanism. Like their male counterparts, these writers worried over the definition and practice of both public and private virtue, human equality, and the principles of rationalism. In contrast to male authors, however, female writers inevitably addressed the issue of inequality of the sexes. This collection includes writings that employ a wide range of approaches, from straightforward reportage to poetical historical narratives, from travel writing to historical drama, and even accounts in textbook format, designed to provide women with exercises in critical thinking-training they rarely received through their traditional education.)

Hayes, Kevin J. A Colonial Woman’s Bookshelf. Knoxville: The U of Tennessee P, 1996. (NCKU library; the intellectual life of early American women) (On reserve)

Mays, Dorothy A. Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival, and Freedom in a New World. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2004. (Medical library)

Norton, Mary Beth. Liberty’s Daughters: the Revolutionary Experience of American Women, 1750-1800. Ithaca and London: Cornell UP, 1996. (NCKU library; the constant patterns of women’s lives, the changing patterns of women’s lives, a new era of female history) (On reserve)

Rogers, Katharine M., ed. The Meridian Anthology of Early American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Louise May Alcott, 1650-1865. New York: Penguin, 1991.

Rowlandson, Mary, Sarah Kemble Knight, et al. Colonial American Travel Narratives. Ed. Wendy Martin. New York: Penguin, 1994.

Scheick, William J. Authority and Female Authorship in Colonial America. Lexington: U. Press of Kentucky, 1998.

Stern, Julia. The Plight of Feeling: Sympathy and Dissent in the Early American Novel. Chicago and London: The U of Chicago P, 1993. (NCKU library; Charlotte Temple, The Coquette, Ormond)

 Troost, Linda V., ed. Eighteenth-Century Women: Studies in Their Works, Lives, and Culture. AMS Press, 1999. [focus on women of North America and Europe, 1660-1815 and to include a bibliography of recent editions of women writers and review essays.

Appendix I: Instructions for facilitation of discussions

  1. Facilitation of novel discussions

Part I. Summary of the assigned part as pertinent to the theme of the novel as it concerns you.

Ex. Reading: Part one of Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero

Summary: Becky Sharp proceeds from Chiswick Mall, Russell Square, to the Great Grunt Street and finally married to Rawdon Crawley. (Source: 邵可霓。第五週報告:“Vanity Fair Part I.” 「維多利亞小說與物質文化」。16 Feb. 2010.

Part II. An outline of your observations

  • I. Environment / space / decoration and self-recognition1

  • “Somehow, now that I had once crossed the threshold of this house, and once was brought face to face with its owners, I felt no longer outcast, vagrant, and disowned by the wide world. I dare to put off the mendicant— to resume my natural manner and character. I began once more to know myself” (287)2 — a social arena that exhibits the decency that is proper to her upbringing and hence a place through which she can reassert her social being.3

  • “Was I very gleeful, settled, content, during the hours I passed in yonder bare, humble school-room this morning and afternoon? Not to deceive myself, I must reply— No: I felt desolate to a degree. I felt— yes, idiot that I am— I felt degraded. I doubted I had taken a step which sank instead of raising me in the scale of social existence” (306) — Surroundings determine one’s social status.

  • Cleaning work [with mathematical precision (332)], purchasing and rearranging furniture [carte blanche given to Jane (333)] elevate labor and aesthetic perception to a domestic science.

(Source: 陳靜慧。第四週報告:“Jane Eyre Part III.” 「維多利亞小說與物質文化」。16 Feb. 2010.

Part III. Raise and explain your questions for discussions.

  1. Facilitation of article discussions

Part I: Summary


  • For Lorraine Daston, the “thingness” of things is both meaningful and material: one half of thingness is acquired through human culture and convention (e.g. symbols), while the other half resides in the intrinsic materiality of things (e.g. weight, texture, etc). A thing talks when it establishes some kind of relationship with men, when some of its properties appeal to men. Moreover, a talkative thing always confuses the distinctions between art and nature, the objective and the subjective. It is a “chimera” that combines different species and generates novel experiences.

(Source: 劉仁洲 。第二週報告:“Speechless”&“People and Things.” 「維多利亞小說與物質文化」。16 Feb. 2010.

Part I: An outline of the article, in accordance with the summary.


  • Daston, Lorraine. “Speechless.”

  • I. A world without things: no separation and no talking

  • II. Things are “speechless” because “they are drowned out by all the talk about them”

  • III. Talk and talkativeness

    • A. Repetition and narcissism

    • B. How things talk for themselves
      1. Idols: through human mediation
      2. Self-evidence: miracles

    • C. Reversal and replacement
      1. Unheimlich impostures (demonic or divine)
      2. Barthes’s mythologies

      • a. “form” (abstract ideology) vs. “sense” (contextualized embodiment)

      • b. “The thingness of things disappears . . . because it eludes the peculiar metalanguage of myth”

(Source: 劉仁洲 。第二週報告:“Speechless”&“People and Things.” 「維多利亞小說與物質文化」。16 Feb. 2010.

Appendix II: Proposal format

Explain your proposed paper project according to the following format.

1. What? -- Identify the question or problem you will investigate, making sure that the scope of your inquiry is clear (e.g., not "Is there any evidence that Chaucer used Dante's Inferno in the Canterbury Tales ?")

2. Why? -- Explain what the importance of this question or problem is.

3. Summarize the current state of scholarship relating to the subject: identify the major treatments of it, indicating what each major study has contributed.

4. How? -- Explain in what way your study will correct or complete those already available; what new contribution will you be making?

5. Include a brief outline to show the way in which you intend to organize the thesis. Suggest the approximate length of each section.

6. Append a preliminary bibliography of the subject, including the relevant (or apparently relevant) items listed in standard sources. Annotate the bibliography briefly for those items you have read.

* This syllabus is subject to change.

1 Give a heading (a theme, a concept, a motif, etc.).

2 A relevant passage.

3 Explanation of the quoted passage as it relates to the theme (and to other quotations).

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