Teaching Amelia in an upper-level American Women Writers course

Sari Edelstein
University of Massachusetts, Boston

I taught in Amelia in an upper-level English course, “American Women Writers and Culture,” and we read it in conjunction with Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple. I assigned the very short introduction to Jane Tompkins’ Sensational Designs on the first day of class, which gave students a vocabulary and a literary-historical context for popular, melodramatic fiction. The pairing of the two texts made the generic conventions of the seduction novel readily apparent; they were able to clearly recognize specific character types and plot devices. Given that Amelia and Charlotte Temple have so much in common, students were primed to observe and contemplate their differences and to assess how those variations contributed to vastly different kinds of “cultural work.” Thus, beyond comparison merely for its own sake, the juxtaposed portrayals of nation and femininity allowed us to discuss the stakes of representation.
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