Susanna Haswell Rowson, a popular and prolific writer, actress, and educator in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, had a truly transatlantic life and career, moving twice from England to America and publishing extensively in both countries. A transatlantic sensibility informs her fictionalized “history” of America, Reuben and Rachel, which traces ten generations of an extended family, beginning with the marriage of Christopher Columbus’s son to a native Peruvian princess, moving through the Tudor succession crises and the colonial settlement of New England, and ending with the title characters, who leave England for America, renounce titles of nobility, and consider their children “true-born Americans.” In Rowson’s representation, the American character derives from fusion and hybridity, the results of intermarriage across racial, religious and national lives.
“Wrongly neglected for decades in favor of Rowson’s better-known Charlotte Temple, Reuben and Rachel is a fascinating story of ten generations of Christopher Columbus’s descendants, who experience colonization and captivity, seduction and sedition, and reframe American history as a richly complicated series of exchanges with unpredictable and unsettling results for national mythology. All readers interested in the transnational and interracial constructions of U.S. nationhood, in the expansion and shrinking of female agency, or in the various genres that comprise Reuben and Rachel will recognize the significant contribution Joseph F. Bartolomeo has made by bringing this captivating novel back into print and by highlighting its historical and literary importance with lucid notes, rich topical appendices, and a smart, well-crafted introduction that brings the novel into contemporary critical discussions with admirable clarity and insight.” — Christopher Castiglia, Pennsylvania State University
“This edition of Rowson’s Reuben and Rachel is a most welcome resource for anyone seeking to understand how an eighteenth-century feminist conceived of gender roles and women’s rights in the context of Enlightenment discourse about individual liberty. It will be of equal interest to those interested in understanding how a transatlantic writer fashioned a Columbus myth suited to the particular cultural needs of an early American republic in search of a national identity. Joseph F. Bartolomeo’s introduction, notes, and appendices help the reader to more fully appreciate the significance of Rowson’s work in both transatlantic and early American contexts.” — Michael Householder, Southern Methodist University