Reception History

Since Rosa was published anonymously and was neglected for so many years, it is rather difficult to determine how Americans during the early nineteenth century and, really, all throughout this country's history have responded to such writing. The plot is filled with intertwining mysteries, to be sure, but the novel itself, as a literary object and a decidedly American novel, is the supreme mystery. Thus, I decided to contact Dr. Duncan Faherty, who, alongside Ed White, has focused on a recovery of the text through Just Teach One. You'll notice that the questions I asked concern the modern pedagogical approaches to Rosa as well as the ongoing exploration and treatment of the text. From this, I, myself, hoped to make even more connections to the concept of metanarrative. 

  • Why is Rosa a valuable text in today’s educational system? Does Rosa have potential in places of learning other than colleges?
DF: I think that we imagined Rosa would be an interesting addition to the current early American canon because of the ways in which it complicates our operant sense of what the shape and contours of that field are. It’s a place of publication is a bit of an outlier in most tradition figurations of early American print culture which tend to privilege Philadelphia, New York, and Boston as the real gravitational centers of cultural production. It is also an interesting text in that it is a really a hybrid of multiple genres, a pulling together of various forms of social critique and plot lines and weaving them together. Given the ways in which the JTO project is really a recovery project aimed at the college classroom, its hard for me to say if others would find the text useful in other settings but I suppose it is a possibility. And I think the real answer to whether or not it is valuable will be determined by the students and faculty who engage with the text – obviously Ed White and I (who produce all the JTO editions) think it has value, but it will be the communities of readers who will actually decide  that over time.
  • What surprised you most throughout your research of Rosa?
DF: I think the think that surprised us most was the ways in which some scholars has seemed aware of the text as one of the earliest post-Revolutionary texts with what we called queer undertones, but that despite the really exciting work done about early American sexualities very few people had actually engaged with Rosa. I think that we hope that the edition will spur some scholars to take it up as an object of consideration in this vein.
  • In a modern classroom, what are some creative ways that an instructor and his and her students might engage with Rosa? How might the pedagogical layers of the text be reflected (or challenged) in modern curriculum and lesson plans?
DF: I think one way to think about how to use it seems to be reflected in how your own course engaged with the text, that is to think about how it is a bit of a mashup of genres and to try and think about what the pedagogical work of crafting such a text intends to do. The text itself is obviously concerned with questions of education so perhaps it lends itself to such reflections.
  • Women and other minorities have always had to fight for their rights; getting published in any era is a privilege with many untold complexities. In light of these ideas, why is the anonymity of this novel’s author an important aspect to consider? 
DF: The function and importance of anonymity is pre-1850 US literature is not, to my mind, something that has been taken seriously enough by scholars working in the field and the field (again to my mind) often relies too much on biography as an interpretative tool and as you suggest normalizes white males as the default subject position of writers (so that texts written by women or POC are often primarily interpreted as providing evidence about the lives of minority subjects which often means to some degree they are seen as evidence and not as literary productions). I think anonymity liberates one from the biographical imperative, and since we really do not know who crafted Rosa we can’t approach it the same way as we might if we knew it had been written by Susanna Rowson or Charles Brockden Brown.
  • My class---specifically, American Novel, taught by Professor Stuckey---had some interesting discussions centered on this novel’s functioning as a metanarrative. We also considered the intertextuality and the satirical references to sensationalized news and high-sounding sonnets. How might students who enjoy creative writing benefit from a study of Rosa?
DF: I have never taught creative writing so a bit hard for me to say, but I think part of what interests me about Rosa is that it is a much messier than the normal canonized texts we often teach – it shows its rough edges as it were, which means that I think it is easier to see the ways in which the different genres do not always come together, you can see (I think) what the author is trying to do in the juxtapositions and different voices/genres that are attempting to be corralled into one narrative (or metanarrative) and perhaps that kind of overt experimentation might help creative writing students see the possibilities in think about a singular text as composed of multiple kinds of narrative elements? 
  • What are your ultimate hopes for the revival of Rosa throughout the coming years?
DF: As with all the JTO texts, I think that Ed and I hope that people continue to teach Rosa and that scholars begin to engage with it more in terms of conference papers and eventually publications. As I said above, it really struck us that the text has some interesting things to contribute to our understanding of early American sexuality and gender and we hope that people take up the text and think about those issues in a variety of ways with their students and with other scholars.
Ultimately, I found this interview to be quite fascinating. The queer undertones that Dr. Faherty mentioned lead me to wonder about the author's fusion of personal identity, writing style, and perhaps even the identity of the American novel and the new country itself. Does the pastiche-like quality lend itself to an expression of much more than a mere story? Rosa seems to foreshadow not only a Whitmanian embrace of oneself and one's surroundings ("Song of Myself" immediately comes to mind), but also certain aspects of postmodern movements in literature and art. Ultimately, the ongoing recovery of this text is of a particularly exigent nature, since we live in a world with a great amount of intolerance where postmodern literary forms allow citizens to experience liberty, joy, and community. 

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