The Coquette and The Boarding Schoolby Hannah Webster Foster, Jennifer Harris, Bryan Waterman
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
Hannah Webster Foster's two major Early American works with a wealth of primary materials are now available in a Norton Critical Edition.
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.
“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.” Elizabeth Hewitt, Ohio State University
“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.” Lisa M. Logan, University of Central Florida
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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