Susanna Rowson’s early American bestseller, Charlotte Temple, has typically been read as a story of seduction and abandonment. Not only is the title character abandoned but also the revolutionary ideals of female equality that were ultimately rejected in the formation of the new republic. This essay, however, focuses primarily on the power that other female characters wield through narrative mastery. It locates female narrative power within the social space of the bed—a place where sex, reproduction, reading, writing, and illness converge. Charlotte Temple redefines female authority and authorship by figuring the domestic space of the bed as narrative space—a theater for action—juxtaposed with the street, where the threat of female narrative power is represented as contagion. This essay reads Charlotte Temple as a proto-feminist education in narrative strategies that both resists and reinforces perceptions of female narrative as contagious.


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pp. 40-62
Launched on MUSE
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