Our Bella, Ourselves

When I teach the eighteenth-century seduction novel Charlotte Temple to my undergraduate students, they complain that all Charlotte does is swoon and cry. She isn't "a strong heroine" they protest. They don't get why her sexual affair with and subsequent pregnancy by a French soldier has to be such a big deal, or why the narrative seems to demand — spoiler alert — her death. The author of this epistolary novel, Susanna Rowson, predicted their reluctance way back in 1791. Toward the end, Rowson breaks the fourth wall and imagines how she would respond to a reader's complaints: READ MORE