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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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4. Spirit of Nationalism   

4. Spirit of Nationalism

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
- Author
- Context
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Author Activities

Susanna Rowson - Teaching Tips

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  • In his book Prodigals and Pilgrims, cultural critic Jay Fliegelman argues that the cultural obsession with tales of female seduction in late-eighteenth-century America reflects the nation's anxiety about its own claims to virtue in its recent revolution against the "patriarchal authority" of England. Ask students what they think of this thesis and how it might apply to Charlotte Temple. You might explain that the figure of the seduced and abandoned woman became central to American fiction after the Revolution and that seduction stories usually ended formulaically with the tragic death of the long-suffering victim of seduction. Ask students to think about what this interest in female virtue and chastity might have signified in the new nation. How might a woman's "fall" from virtue be read as an allegory of the political and social conditions in the new nation?

  • Rowson frequently breaks into her narration of Charlotte Temple to address her readers directly, offering insights and defenses designed for the "sober matrons," "wise gentlemen," and "dear girls" she imagines make up her audience. Ask your students what effect these breaks in the narration have on their experience as readers of the novel. How does Rowson use her authorial voice to forestall criticism, heighten dramatic tension, and manage readers' reactions to her tale? You might have a student read Rowson's Preface aloud and then ask the class to analyze what kind of authorial voice she is presenting. What claims is she making for her story? What effect does she hope her novel will have? What tone does she adopt to address her readers?

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