Amelia in the digitally-archived republic of letters

Brian Sweeney

The College of St. Rose

I adopted Amelia for my 200-level course Sympathy and the Early American Novel, one I have offered several times at The College of Saint Rose.  This course, open to English majors and non-majors alike, introduces undergraduates to early national U.S. literature and culture while inviting them to think in a sustained way about sentimental aesthetics and the ethics and politics of sympathy.

Students came to Amelia having already read Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple (along with scholarship on seduction fiction, some sentimental poetry, and selections from Benjamin Rush and Adam Smith).  I was, I admit, hardly breaking new ground by pairing Amelia with Charlotte Temple; however, I enthusiastically followed the example set by previous JTO contributors, happy to relieve Rowson’s novel of the burden of serving as a synecdoche for all of Anglo-American seduction fiction.  While the two texts have much in common—seduced women, faithless British soldiers, bereaved fathers, transatlantic voyages, revolutionary war setting, etc.—their intriguing differences allowed my students to reflect on the diversity possible within this seemingly most formulaic of genres. Continue reading “Amelia in the digitally-archived republic of letters”