A Historical Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Historical Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Historical Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Historical Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne

Synopsis

Nathaniel Hawthorne remains one of the most widely read and taught of American authors. This Historical Guide collects a number of original essays by Hawthorne scholars that place the author in historical context. Like other volumes in the series, A Historical Guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne includes an introduction, a brief biography, a bibliographical essay, and an illustrated chronology of the author's life and times. Combining cultural criticism with historical scholarship, this volume addresses a wide range of topics relevant to Hawthorne's work, including his relationship to slavery, children, mesmerism, and the visual arts.

Excerpt

With the publication of Twice-Told Tales in 1837, Nathaniel Hawthorne gained recognition as an important American author; “a new star rises in the heavens, ” declared his friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in a review of the book. Some thirteen years later, with the publication of The Scarlet Letter (1850), Hawthorne joined the ranks of America's greatest writers. “None but a man of true genius and a highly cultivated mind could have written it, ” declared a typical contemporary review. “It is a work of rare, we may say of fearful power. ” During the 150 years since the publication of his masterpiece, Hawthorne has continued to occupy a central place in the American literary canon despite major shifts in critical fashions and reading tastes. Although recent scholarship has revealed the ways that influential friends, editors, and publishers assisted in the construction of Hawthorne's literary reputation, his short stories and novels continue to speak to a reading public fascinated by stories of sin and guilt and by exceptional individuals struggling with themselves and repressive institutions. Hawthorne's famous moral ambiguity, his rich visual imagination, his deep exploration of the dreamscapes of individuals, communities, and the nation, and especially his “power of blackness, ” as Melville called it, are distinguishing features of his achievement and help explain his durability as an American classic author.

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