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The Entanglements of Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Entanglements of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Haunted Minds and Ambiguous Approaches

Samuel Chase Coale
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 206
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  • Book Info
    The Entanglements of Nathaniel Hawthorne
    Book Description:

    Nathaniel Hawthorne, celebrated in his own day for sketches that now seem sentimental, came only gradually to be fully appreciated for what his friend Herman Melville diagnosed as the "power of blackness" in his fiction - the complex moral grappling with sin and guilt. By the 1850s, Hawthorne had already been accepted into the American canon, and since then, his works - especially ‘The Scarlet Letter’ - have remained ubiquitous in American culture. Along with this has come an explosion of Hawthorne criticism, from New Criticism, New Historicism, and Cultural Studies to queer theory, feminist scholarship, and transatlantic criticism, that shows no signs of slowing. This book charts Hawthorne's canonization and the ongoing critical discourse, drawing on two senses of "entanglement." First the sense from quantum physics, which allows us to see what were once seen as strict dualisms in Hawthorne as more complex relations where the poles of the would-be dualities play off of and affect each other; second, the sense of critics being tangled up in, caught up in, Hawthorne the man and his work and in previous critics' views of him. Charting the course of Hawthorne criticism as well as his place in popular culture, this book sheds light also on the culture in which his reception has occurred. Samuel Chase Coale is Professor of American Literature and Culture at Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-757-9
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    S. C. C.
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction: Entanglements
    (pp. 1-4)

    When the opportunity arose to write about Hawthorne once again, how could I refuse? I had critically wrestled with his work in In Hawthorne’s Shadow: American Romance from Melville to Mailer (1985) and Mesmerism and Hawthorne: Mediums of American Romance (1998). While the first book traces the thematic influences and images of Hawthorne’s Manichean vision on the many writers who came after him, and the second explores the effects of mesmerism on his fiction, not just thematically but structurally in terms of how he described the American romance, in this book I have produced a critical overview of critics who...

  6. 1: The Legacy of The Scarlet Letter: Hawthorne in Contemporary Culture
    (pp. 5-19)

    On June 22, 2006, an illustrated invitation arrived via email. It showed two women, one with a high starched collar and white bow, the other in the foreground, a nun, her face shrouded in a nun’s habit in all of its whiteness with the black wimple curtaining it. The invitation read:

    Public Ceremony

    2:30 pm on June 26, 2006


    The Old Manse

    269 Monument Street

    Concord, Massachusetts

    Followed by

    Reception & Refreshments

    Graveside Visitation after 3 pm

    Sleepy Hollow Cemetery — Author’s Ridge

    Hosted by

    The Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne


    The Help of the Good People of Concord


  7. 2: Hawthorne as Nineteenth-Century Morbid Genius
    (pp. 20-42)

    Despite radical changes in American culture and society since Hawthorne’s day, he has managed to remain at the top of the list of American literature’s classic writers. In fact over the years he has never been displaced. Through psychological criticism and the study of symbols, myth criticism and deconstruction, linguistic, Marxist and feminist analysis, he has managed to stay in place in the American canon. Jane Tompkins tried in 1985 to undermine his position or at least expose it as the result of a cabal led by the champions of Dead White Males and New England elitists to keep him...

  8. 3: Biographical and Critical Veils in the Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 43-65)

    The nineteenth century declared that Hawthorne was a genius, as if that resolved everything about him and his work, and scattered impressions this way and that about his vision of solitude and isolation, his morbid mind and his solitary ways, his fixation on guilt and sin, sorrow and sympathy, all in an atmosphere of proclaiming the birth of a genuine American literature to counteract the British hold on American culture and fiction. But the man himself managed to evade all would-be critics and scattershot analysts, presenting himself to the world in his prefaces as a pale Romantic fellow, haunted in...

  9. 4: Biographical Visions of the Twentieth Century
    (pp. 66-90)

    At the turn of the twentieth century, psychology as the new science, based almost solely on Freud’s descriptions of the Oedipal complex, social repression, and the unending battle between eros (love/sex) and thanatos(death), permeated the popular American consciousness so that “repression” became the buzzword of the 1920s. The impressionistic, genteel biographies and critiques of Hawthorne by his heirs, Julian (1884) and Rose (1897), and by such writers as Moncure D. Conway (1890), George E. Woodberry (1902), Frank Preston Stearns (1906), and Carl Van Doren (1921), gave way to the more deeply psychological portraits of a solitary and tormented Hawthorne as...

  10. 5: Entangled Polarities: The New Criticism
    (pp. 91-115)

    Different eras of literary criticism and biography always overlap and interact with one another, complicit in each other’s confrontational positions or interpretations, but we can still detect important shifts in emphasis and method as we move forward chronologically from the nineteenth century into the twentieth century, with its focus on texts as aesthetic objects to be “de-coded” and meticulously analyzed in the New Criticism and its interest in psychological patterns and paradigms, the ambiguities implicit in Hawthorne’s style, the mythic overtones and resonance of many of his plots, and the religious underpinnings of much of his vision. Until the turn...

  11. 6: Doubting Dualisms: The Strategies of Hawthorne’s Romance
    (pp. 116-135)

    We begin to see in the literary criticism of the late 1960s and 1970s the “linguistic turn” and the deconstructionist perspective that originated at that time in the criticism of French philosophers and social critics such as Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Jean-Francois Lyotard and was explored by critics such as Paul de Man and J. Hillis Miller. While Derrida dealt explicitly with language and texts and Lyotard with the demise of metanarraritives, those overarching cultural myths of progress and value, Barthes dismantled and deconstructed the idea that an author’s intentions could be discovered in a text (in...

  12. 7: Ideological Contexts: Deconstruction, Feminism, the New Historicism, Race, and Entanglement
    (pp. 136-166)

    In the 1960s and 1970s deconstruction, which undermined not only the various dualisms that seemed permanently attached to the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century critical approaches to Hawthorne as man and artist but also the assumptions and strategies of the New Criticism and psychological approaches of the mid-twentieth century, was not the only critical revolution that occurred. Feminist criticism also flourished, as did other perspectives that included those of African American writers and critics and those of Marxist critics with their concerns of class and ideology. In general these can be seen as part of a tendency toward a thorough exploration...

  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 167-184)
  14. Index
    (pp. 185-196)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-197)