Nathaniel Hawthorne: Identity and Knowledge

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Identity and Knowledge

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Identity and Knowledge

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Identity and Knowledge

Excerpt

Jac Tharpe's quest after identity and knowledge in Nathaniel Hawthorne has taken him on an interesting journey during which he has made some rewarding discoveries.

One of his points is that Hawthorne is not an exclusively American figure, a mutation out of puritanism. Mr. Tharpe is interested in showing that, whether or not Hawthorne had been influenced by certain European authors, he at least thought along the same lines as they did; and in turn he became an influence upon others. Mr. Tharpe believes that Hawthorne was bound to have been influenced by Goethe, but that Hawthorne may himself have influenced Dostoevsky.

In relation to one of Hawthorne's best-known stories, Randall Stewart has found traces of Spenser The Faerie Queene; Mr. Tharpe hazards a further guess: 'Rappaccini's Daughter' has several resemblances to Kalidasa Shakuntala, which Thoreau read and might have recommended to Hawthorne" --a reasonable enough guess, too.

As Mr. Tharpe points out, "American criticism has been insular if not chauvinistic," though others have of course also noted similarities between Hawthorne and European authors. Perhaps the first to do so was Edgar Allan Poe, who in an 1847 review of one of the editions of Twice- Told Tales noted a resemblance to the German author Johann Ludwig Tieck: "Those who speak of [Hawthorne] as original mean nothing more than that he differs in his . . .

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