Just Teach One

Rowson’s Sincerity (1803-04)

Our Fall 2015 text is Susanna Rowson’s novel Sincerity; a Novel in a Series of Original Letters.  Rowson did publish the novel as a book in 1813 under the title Sarah, or The Exemplary Wife, but it originally appeared almost a decade earlier, serialized in the Boston Weekly Magazine in 1803-04 under the byline “The Novelist.”  Sincerity opens with Sarah’s abandonment by her father and her unhappy marriage to Darnley: the plot focuses on the trials of that marriage—her husband’s mistress, his imprisonment, Sarah’s flight to Ireland, and encounters with male admirers and female detractors.  The novel is epistolary and innovatively so: it alternates between Sarah’s letters to her friend Anne and Anne’s more distant letters to another friend, Elenor.  Late in the novel, Anne suddenly dies, changing the epistolary circuits still further.  Through these different perspectives, the novel ventures a complex reflection on marriage as well as one of the most straightforward and lengthy depictions of adultery in an early 19C text.  There are some interesting continuities with the better-known Charlotte Temple but the contrasts in plot, character, and narrative technique creatively complicate the view of sentimentality associated with Rowson’s earlier works.  It is longer than our earlier texts—just shy of 70,000 words—so probably requiring more than one undergraduate class meeting—and in our own classroom experience teaches very well.  (One of our students, after reading Sincerity, asked if it was an anti-sentimental novel, so different did it seem from Rowson’s earlier works.)

The PDF can be accessed at the following link; below that you’ll find a reproduction of the June 4, 1803 issue of the Boston Weekly Magazine in which the first installment of Sincerity appeared.  The reproduction comes courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society, which provided assistance with preparation of this edition.


Sincerity; A Novel in a Series of Letters (1803-04), by Susanna Rowson


Boston Weekly Magazine, June 4, 1803

Sincerity, Mary Kelley, and Jane Austen

Lisa West Drake University I taught the Just Teach One text Sincerity by Susanna Rowson in two different classes fall 2015 at Drake University. The first course was Approaches to American Literature Before 1900, which I was teaching with a focus on 1820s social issues, and the second was a First Year Seminar on Jane […]

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Serial Blogging a Serial Novel

Jon Blandford Bellarmine University As I did the previous two times I’ve participated in “Just Teach One,” I incorporated this year’s selection into the survey course I offer every fall, which covers American literature from its beginnings through 1865. This course draws mostly majors who are mostly at the sophomore level, though there are always […]

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Teaching Sincerity, Finding Serendipity

Brian Yothers University of Texas at El Paso My experience of teaching Susanna Haswell Rowson’s Sincerity in a graduate seminar in the early Atlantic novel was marked by the unexpected. As the initial call for participants noted, this novel defeats the expectations we have for Rowson’s work when we come straight to it from Charlotte […]

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Format, Genre, and Nosebleeds, Reconsidered

David Lawrimore Idaho State University I taught Susanna Rowson’s Sincerity in “Origins of the American Novel,” a once-a-week, 400/500-level seminar on American literature before 1800. The major goal of the course was to consider the causes and effects of early American novelists’ obsession with established British genres. We studied how American novels drew and developed […]

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American Women Writers and Nineteenth-Century Social Reform

Caroline Woidat State University of New York—Geneseo Before the addition of Sincerity to Just Teach One, the syllabus for my upper-level undergraduate course on American women writers and nineteenth-century reform had always started with either Susanna Rowson’s Charlotte Temple or Hannah Foster’s The Coquette as a means of introducing Republican era concerns and debates before […]

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Is it any good?: The Recovering Sincerity Project

Karen Woods Weierman Worcester State University   In Fall 2015, I placed the Just Teach One text Sincerity at the center of my American Novel I course.  The “Recovering Sincerity Project,” adapted from a JTO assignment by Jon Blandford, asked students to do the work of literary history and decide whether the novel deserved critical […]

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Ghost Story

Thomas Hallock University of South Florida St. Petersburg   Kaylie’s song inhabits two voices from the American survey. The first stanza takes the perspective of Sarah Darnley, who flees a disastrous marriage and concubinage, wanders down the public road and knocks on a farm house door outside Dublin:

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Sincerity’s Gothic Turn

Michelle Sizemore University of Kentucky I taught Sincerity in an upper-level course for English majors on the American Gothic in the long nineteenth-century. The reason for this unusual placement was to get students to think more deliberately about the parameters of the gothic and questions of genre more broadly. My more targeted plan for teaching […]

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Cultures of Marriage

Eric Norton Marymount University I taught Susannah Rowson’s Sincerity in a 200-level early American literature survey course of 30 students in our core curriculum. Marymount is a small, liberal arts college with a sizeable business school, school of education, and a school of health professions, so in our core classes there tend to be only […]

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Sincerity and Captivity

Laura M. Stevens University of Tulsa   Given the title of this text, I suppose I should be, well, sincere about how the class went. The students were great, the text was great, but I did not quite meet my own expectations for this particular teaching endeavor. It was not a disaster by any means, […]

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