AmLit – The Coquette (Eliza Wharton, that whore I kinda feel sorry for now)

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“An unusual sensation psesses my breast; a sensation; which once the right could never pervade it….my dear Lucy, on leaving my paternal roof”
The Coquette, Hannah Foster, eve of the 1800’s (1797)From Class Discussion –

  • Gesture to plot. Lucy’s autonomy
  • Eliza’s capacity for Feeling. Shows that the novel is very much about Pleasure
  • Helps characterize Eliza’s personality for the rest of the story.
  • Goes against the norm
  • Foreshadow plot
  • 1st person POV. Form of a letter. Epistolary novel.
  • Bears some relation to narratives of immersion where somebody reports their struggles with feeling. IE. Rowlandson crying in corner with Bible.
    • Here, its not about introspection, its about telling ppl how much fun you’ll have
  • No sense of duty? Doesn’t talk about what she owes to God or to her Father. All about her pleasure.
    • Pleasure vs. duty
    • Becomes possible for 18th C. woman for culturally legitimate feelings to friend in letter or write novel.
      • Readers take pleasure in young woman’s quest for pleasure
  • Dilemma of feelings and ‘sins’ to help guide you in your freedom
    • ie. Ben Franklin, writes about sins to show that he sees the correct path now

From Powerpoint –

  • Direct appeal to solitary reader, who is asked to identify with experience of stranger, on the “natural authority” of feeling, sentiment
  • Tells you about blushes, tremors, quivers, and palpitations of sentiment = what she tells about. Shares her emotional experience with her
  • Unembarrassed way of addressing you
  • Sympathy: Feeling of moral sentiment that emerges from innate desire to identify with others. Imagination places us in situation of another. This = natural basis of benevolence
  • Sensibility: physical feeling, sense perception; tender, fine feelings
  • Sentimental: Conscious openness to feelings and conscious consumption of feelings
    • Coquette is invested in reporting what women feel as they write. Courting of feeling as object of reading
  • Paine: You as citizens have choice between duty to Father OR follow Nature, which forbids you from doing the Duty b/c duty to Nature trumps force of custom and other political obligations. Justifies a break.
    • Novel = formalization of appeal for argument of moral sentiments

Letter as first-person report of sensation and sesibility

  • I must write to you the impulses of my mind, or I must not write at all
  • My imagination was so impressed
  • Bewiching charms have a tendency to keep my mind in a state of preturbation
  • The mind, after being confined at home for a while, sends the imagination abroad in quest of new treasures, and the body may as well accompany it.
  • Very personal + private argument about nature of liberty
  • Pg 821 – Eliza to Lucy, About what she told Boyer

Self knowledge, sir, that most important of all sciences, I have yet to learn…My sanguine imagination paints, in alluring colors, the charms of you and freedom, regulated by virtue and innocence”

    • Right to self-discovery & to make decisions based on self-knowledge once you acquire capacity to make judgments for yourself.
      • About a woman testing the nature of Independence
      • Even a woman has the right to liberty
      • About learning limits of your own judgments
    • Tests independence by individuals. Liberty as personalized pursuit
      • Thoreau, Chopin’s “The Awakening” (She dies at end too). Diff. orientation to freedom. Think of House of Mirth

Fiction as convention

  • Esp with mention of all these other novels that it assumes you know. Ie. Pamela and Clarissa. Draw the connections to tell you how to read + excuses special distinguishing qualities & how it might not work so well. Familiar pleasure b/c it relates to other books you have read.
  • At a moment when genres of fiction are dominating literary landscape. No longer just about sermons..its now okay to read fiction.
  • Periodicals are still how to make most money (ie. Irving, Poe) – Fiction to sell. New!
  • Seek out living as fiction writer = new feature of society at this time
  • Objective criticism. Cosmopolitan notion of art and letters rather than just political.
    • Gothic tale. Not interested in production of art, just wants to write.
  • Pleasure as commodity.
  • Nothing morally redemptive. Just good reads, for pleasure
Quotes to Know
  • Both nature and education had instilled into my mind an implicit obedience to the will and desires of my parents. To them, of course, I sacrificed my fancy in this affair; determined that my reason should concur with theirs; and on that to risk my future happiness.
  • My imagination is so impressed with the festive scenes of the day, that Morpheus waves his ebon-wand in vain.
    • Morpheus = God of Dreams.
    • Shows learnedness and knowledge. She is an intellectual woman in the appropriate literature
  • These bewitching charms of mine have a tendency to keep my mind in a state of preturbation. I am so pestered with these admirers; not that I am so very handsome neither; bu I don’t know how it is, I am certainly very much the taste of the other sex.
    • Pretentious bitch coming through. Oh look at me I’m so hot I have guys fawning left and right and you don’t, *sticks out tongue*
  • I am young, gay, volatile. A melancholy event has lately extricated me from those shackles, which parental authority had imposed on my mind. Let me then enjoy that freedom which I so highly prize. Let me have opportunity, unbiassed by opinion, to gratify my natural disposition in a participation of those pleasures which youth and innocence afford.
    • Her response to Mrs. Richman. Shows her as naive and egotistical. So focused on momentary pleasure that she’s going to fail bigtime at attaining satisfaction
  • Marriage is the tomb of friendship. It appears to me a very selfish state.
    • Here, Eliza shares her view with Major Sanford. He thinks marriage = unnecessary shackles. Both seek pleasure over commitment. She’s a flirt, and he’s a seducer. Dangerous combo.
  • My sanguine imagination paints, in alluring colors, the charms of youth and freedom, regulated by virtue and innocence. (BUT ARE THEY REALLY REGULATED? DUN DUN DUNNNNNN)
  • A man of vicious character cannot be a good member of society. In order to that, his principles and practice must be uncorrupted as his morals, at least, he must make a man of probity and honor.
    • Lucy has a very low opinion of Sanford. Disapproving + moral voice of the times that Eliza seeks liberation from even in the very beginning.
  • She has no soul though, that I can discover. She is heiress, nevertheless, to a great fortune; and that is all the soul I wish for in a wife.
    • Sanford. Pig. Slob. Ew, hate hate hate.
  • But let the veil of charity be drawn over my faults; let the eye of candor impartially examine my present behavior; let the kind and lenient hand of friendship assist in directing my future steps; and, perhaps, I may not prove unworthy of associating with the respectable inhabitants of this happy mansion, for such I am sure it must be, while honored with Miss. Wharton’s presence.
  • The knowledge and masculine vitues of your sex may be softened and rendered more difusive by the inquisitiveness, vivacity, and docility of urs; drawn forth and exercised by each other.
  • With all the boasted fortitude and resolution of ours ex, we are but mere machines. Let love once pervade our breasts; and its object may mould us into any form that pleases her fancy, or even caprice!
Writing Style Generalizations
  • Prone to be flowery and verbose
  • Complex sentences, combine multiple clauses
  • Pretentious air. Prone to using the words: Sensibility, Fancy, Virtue, Imagination, PLEASURE, Opportunity, etc
  • I don’t even know how else to describe it…her vocabulary is almost LUSCIOUS. It is rich and ornate, just like the society she wants to be a part of. She uses it to cover her vulnerabilities and block off sensible suggestions
Too long a novel. General jist of ending is this (Plot summary from Wiki. I did the analysis and interpretation and contextualized it myself, but for the purpose of having a summary here, this will do just fine –
  • The story is about Eliza Wharton, the daughter of a clergyman. At the beginning of the novel she has just been released from an unwanted marriage by the death of her betrothed, the Rev. Haly, also a clergyman, whom Eliza nursed during his final days in her own home. After this experience, she decides she wants friendship and independence. After a short period of time living with friends, she is courted by two men. One, Boyer, is a respected but rather boring clergyman, whom all of her friends and her mother recommend she accept in marriage. The other, Sanford, is an aristocratic libertine, who has no intention to marry but determines not to let another man have Eliza. Because of her indecision and her apparent preference for the libertine Sanford, Boyer eventually gives up on her, deciding that she will not make a suitable wife. Sanford also disappears from her life and marries another woman, Nancy, for her fortune. Eliza eventually decides that she really loved Boyer and wants him back. Unfortunately for Eliza, Boyer has already decided to marry Maria Selby, a relation of Boyer’s friend. Sanford later reappears married, but is able to seduce the depressed Eliza. They have a hidden affair for some time until, overcome by guilt and unwilling to face her family and friends, Eliza arranges to escape from her home. Like the real-life Elizabeth Whitman, she dies due to childbirth complications and is buried by strangers. Mrs. Wharton (Eliza’s mother) and all of Eliza’s friends are deeply saddened by her death. Sanford, too, is devastated by her death. In a letter to his friend, Charles Deighton, he expresses his regret at his wretched behavior.
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