What is recovery in the twenty-first century? This question continues to intrigue and frustrate, as many of the forms that recovery took in the earliest days of feminist literary criticism no longer appear viable, while many new but often untested forms are emerging every day. One of these new methods of recovery is the Just Teach One project created by Duncan Faherty and Ed White. Hailed by many as an innovative mixture of old and new, Just Teach One makes edited editions of little-known or under-studied early American literary texts available for free as downloadable documents through the website of Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life. These editions have student-friendly introductions and annotations, continuing in the long tradition of recovery as a mechanism for providing a general readership access to and the means of understanding distinctive texts. By making the editions freely available on the web, Just Teach One employs digital technology to promote and circulate them to as wide a readership as possible. In doing so, Faherty and White have made an intellectually rigorous but pragmatic intervention in the ongoing crisis in academic publishing that has so severely constricted avenues for the publication of print editions. Legacy Features is privileged to have the opportunity to collaborate with Just Teach One in the following cluster of essays, demonstrating our recognition of the importance of Faherty and [End Page 129] White's contribution to recovery scholarship and the ongoing need for creative solutions to the problem of recovery in the twenty-first century.
It is particularly appropriate that our collaboration should focus on Susanna Rowson, an author whose status in twenty-first-century literary studies is paradigmatic of both the power and the limitations of recovery. Rowson was recovered in the 1980s as one of a handful of early women writers who gained new recognition for their historical and literary significance. Her recovery was facilitated by the republication of her most famous novel, Charlotte Temple, which has now achieved canonical status and is widely taught in English courses. Yet the fact that only one of Rowson's nine novels is well known and generally taught stands as a testament to the persistent inflexibility of the canon, able to accommodate some new voices but ultimately resistant to widespread inclusion. It was only in 2009 that a second Rowson novel, Reuben and Rachel, was published in a critical edition. This is to say nothing about Rowson's plays, poems, songs, and textbooks, which are often accessible only through propriety databases such as Readex's Early American Imprints. Rowson's case is hardly unique—and, in many respects, she has been better served than her peers. Many of the early women writers who were recovered in the 1980s alongside Rowson remain on the margins of literary scholarship, and many have fallen back out of print. In other words, Rowson serves both as powerful evidence of the fact that recovering a woman's writing can provoke a wholesale rethinking of literary history and as a cautionary tale regarding the limits of recovery to do justice to the full range of women's literary productions. We reinforce these limits when as teachers we resist adding "just one" recovered text to our syllabi—but this stance is increasingly hard to justify, thanks to work like Faherty and White's.
In 2014, Faherty and White selected Rowson's penultimate novel, Sincerity, as the seventh Just Teach One edition. In the forum that follows we reprint three of the novel's fifty-three installments as they appeared in their original serial publication in 1803 and 1804. (The full text is available at Commonplace.) These excerpts are followed by a cluster of essays by five scholars who taught the novel during the fall 2015 semester: Theresa Strouth Gaul, Jennifer Desiderio, Karen A. Weyler, Lisa West, and Michelle Sizemore. Faherty and White invited these scholars to discuss their approaches to teaching Sincerity and how the book might be productively integrated in a variety of pedagogical contexts. (Additional essays about teaching Sincerity can be found on the Just Teach One website.) These essays offer sustained and thought-provoking analysis of Rowson's...