- Editor's Note
Charlotte Temple is among the most studied pieces of American fiction: read by countless undergraduates every semester in U.S. literature surveys and long canonized by critics as the paradigmatic example of the American seduction narrative. Yet, paradoxically, Susanna Rowson is perhaps the least scrutinized and most misunderstood canonical writer in American literary history. A sustained myopic focus on a single novel has created a distorted portrait of Rowson's career and importance, one that continually notes her popularity but all too quickly dismisses her talents and productivity. Across the last few years in conferences and in archives the operant critical sense of Rowson has begun to be redrawn—a renewed focus further energized by the publication of Marion Rust's seminal work Prodigal Daughters: Susanna Rowson's Early American Women (2008). This special double issue of Studies in American Fiction seeks to continue this advance by reorienting our understanding of Rowson's many different faces. Far from just the didactic pedagogue warning young women of the dangers of seduction, Rowson authored some of the most complex and politically engaged U.S. novels of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; she also published plays, songs, geography textbooks, primers, conduct guides, and a wide range of serialized pieces. Without question it is high time that our engagement with Rowson moves "Beyond Charlotte Temple," and thanks in large part to the continued efforts of guest editors Jennifer Desiderio and Desirée Henderson the essays contained in this volume move to remap not only the terrain of Rowson studies but the field imaginary of early American literature as well. While numerous undergraduates will continue to read Charlotte Temple in classrooms across the United States for years to come (as well they should), the conversations they have about Susanna Rowson will be fundamentally altered by the work gathered here. The field owes a debt of gratitude to Jennifer and Desirée for their unflagging dedication to this project, and Studies in American Fiction owes them double thanks for allowing us to be the volume's home. [End Page v]
On behalf of Studies in American Fiction, I would also like to thank the cadre of early Americanists who—with keen eyes and a deep seated enthusiasm—read the essays gathered here and helped to improve them all. G Ganter first broached the idea of SAF publishing these essays, and our sincere gratitude to him for making that initial contact. Thanks as well to Sari Altschuler and Jesse Schwartz who both generously took time away from the final stages of their dissertations to copy edit this volume. A special word of thanks to Jackie Penny at the American Antiquarian Society for her timely help with images and permissions.
This volume is dedicated to Jeffrey Richards, who unfortunately passed away in the midst of its production. Jeff's grace, his wit, his encyclopedic knowledge of the early American theater, and his always encouraging presence touched more people than it is possible to recount and his passing is deeply mourned by us all. I wish that this volume had been able to see the light of day before Jeff's passing, since as he wrote in an email to me while undergoing chemotherapy "now's the time for such a volume on Rowson studies." Jeff played a large role in the creation of such a volume, and we all hope he would have been pleased with the results. He will always be missed. [End Page vi]