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The Coquette and The Boarding School

Overview

Published anonymously in 1797, Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette grabbed American interest with its ripped-from-the-headlines story of sex and scandal. A steady best seller for decades, the seduction novel was passed down through generations; indeed, its heroine became better known than the book’s author. A year later, Foster’s lesser-known follow-up, The Boarding School, provided an equally compelling portrait of women at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same epistolary form. Both novels can now be ...
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Overview

Published anonymously in 1797, Hannah Webster Foster’s The Coquette grabbed American interest with its ripped-from-the-headlines story of sex and scandal. A steady best seller for decades, the seduction novel was passed down through generations; indeed, its heroine became better known than the book’s author. A year later, Foster’s lesser-known follow-up, The Boarding School, provided an equally compelling portrait of women at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same epistolary form. Both novels can now be read in conversation with each other in this new Norton Critical Edition based on the respective first edition texts; the author’s original spelling, punctuation, and usage are retained while obvious printer’s errors are corrected. The texts are joined with a detailed introduction to Foster’s legacy and Elizabeth Whitman’s life along with explanatory annotations and a note on the text.

“Sources and Contexts” unearths a wealth of original material about the environment the works were produced in and the real-life people who inspired them. The three sections, “On Coquetry,” “The Life and Death of Elizabeth Whitman,” and “The Nineteenth-Century Legacy,” include new and corrected transcriptions of Whitman’s letters to Ruth and Joel Barlow, an inventory of items found at Whitman’s room at her death, popular representations of Elizabeth Whitman, and unauthorized sequels to The Coquette. Seven illustrations, including three of Eliza Wharton, are included to enrich the reading experience.

“Criticism” brings together nine diverse contemporary interpretations. Contributors include Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Claire C. Pettengill, Julia A. Stern, Gillian Brown, Jeffrey H. Richards, and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, among others.

Chronologies of the lives of Hannah Webster Foster and Elizabeth Whitman are included along with a Selected Bibliography.

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Editorial Reviews

Ivy Schweitzer Dartmouth College
"This is an indispensable critical edition for scholars, teachers, and readers interested in women's culture and women in the culture of the early Republican period. The editors bring Foster's enduring novel, The Coquette, together with her subsequent and lesser-known volume The Boarding School, contextualizing both with historical materials. Not only does this double edition honor female voices and female affiliation, but it helps us to view Eliza Wharton's plight in its larger and less tragic dimensions.”
Elizabeth Hewitt Ohio State University
"While one might legitimately ask why we would need another edition of The Coquette, Desiderio and Vietto's volume, which includes Foster's lesser-known The Boarding School, is a significant new contribution. Not only will it allow us to introduce Foster's fascinating epistolary work to students, but it also includes a host of other contextualizing materials. Their volume reveals a vibrant portrait of women's lives in 1790s New England and gives students an opportunity to read two major works by one of the most important writers of early American letters."
Lisa M. Logan University of Central Florida
"This volume puts Foster's two novels in dialogue and broadens our understanding of both. Desiderio and Vietto's introduction considers both historical and modern criticism and anchors Foster's work in studies of the novel, epistolarity, seduction, and women's education and reading in the New Republic. With an excellent bibliography and helpful notes, this new edition will be useful for undergraduate and graduate courses in early American literature and culture, novels, letters, women's education, and women's and girls' studies."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393931679
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/17/2012
  • Series: Norton Critical Editions Series
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 1,351,089
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Bryan Waterman is Associate Professor of English at New York University. He is the author of The Friendly Club of New York City and the Making of American Literature and several essays on American literature and culture published in American Literary History, Early American Literature, The William and Mary Quarterly, and elsewhere. He is the coeditor, with Cyrus R. K. Patell, of The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of New York.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Introduction
Hannah Webster Foster: A Brief Chronology
A Note on the Texts
The Coquette
The Boarding School
Appendix A: Elizabeth Whitman: The Model for Eliza Wharton
1. Whitman Death Notices a. Notice of Elizabeth Whitman's Death, Salem Mercury (Massachusetts), 29 July 1788
b. From the Independent Chronicle (Boston), 11 September 1788
c. From the Massachusetts Centinel (Boston), 20 September 1788
2. From Elizabeth Whitman's Letters a. To Joel Barlow (19 February 1779)
b. To Joel Barlow (17 October 1779)
c. To Ruth Barlow (25 November 1782)
Appendix B: Manuals on Letter-Writing and Letters of Advice on Marriage and Friendship
1. From The American Letter-Writer (1793)
2. From John Bennett, Letters to a Young Lady (1791)
3. From The American Spectator, or Matrimonial Preceptor (1797)
4. From Letters Written by the Late Right Honourable Philip Dormer Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, To His Son, Philip Stanhope, Esq (1775)
Appendix C: The Education of Young Women
1. From Judith Sargent Murray, "On the Equality of the Sexes" (1790)
2. From Benjamin Rush, Thoughts upon Female Education (1787)
3. From Miss Ann Negus, "The Valedictory Oration." Delivered at the commencement of the Young Ladies' Academy of Philadelphia (1794)
Appendix D: The Letters of Eliza Southgate Bowne
1. To Her Father (13 February 1798)
2. To Her Sister Octavia (7 February 1800)
3. To Moses Porter (October 1800)
4. To Her Mother (9 September 1802)
Appendix E: Mirth and Gaiety in the Early Republic
1. "Logick and Dancing, Compared" (September 1791)
2. From "To the Fair Sex" (10 March 1798)
3. Rules for the Providence Assembly (1792)
4. From "A Collection of Contra Dances Containing the Newest Figures" (1792)
5. From John Griffiths, A Collection of the Newest Cotillions (1794)
a. Cotillions b. Instances of Ill Manners
6. "Homespun" (July-December 1791)
Works Cited and Select Bibliography

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