For April 24
- Barlowe, Jamie. Rereading Women: Hester Prynne-Ism and the Scarlet Mob of Scribblers. American Literary History 9.2 (1997): 197-225.
- Baym, Nina. "Revisiting Hawthorne's Feminism." Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 30 (2004): 32-55. Rpt. in The Scarlet Letter and Other Writings. Ed. Leland S. Person. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. 541-558. Print.
- Berlant, Lauren. "The Paradise of Law in The Scarlet Letter." The anatomy of national fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and everyday life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
Did we choose just these three? Also: I had Will scan another chapter of Berlant's book on Hawthorne, the one about "The Custom House." I remembered that it's my favorite chapter from her book, but not to worry; consider it optional, not required. --Ghendler 20:14, 22 April 2012 (EDT)
Abel, Darrel. “Hawthorne’s Pearl: Symbol and Character.” ELH 18.1 (1951): 50–66. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2872046
I located Abel in the notes of several of our class readings. I chose to use him as a companion to Charvat in (comparatively) early Hawthorne criticism (1951 and 1944, respectively); I was attracted to this particular article because it offers a sort of close-reading, character-centric complement to Charvat’s historical study. (For this reason I suppose I could have just as easily listed this article under "History").
A Professor of English at Purdue University for thirty years,  Darrel Abel edited American Literature: Critical Theory in the American Renaissance and wrote fourteen essays on Hawthorne collected by Purdue in Moral Picturesque: Studies in Hawthorne's Fiction (1988).  In addition, the library has collected his papers on Twain, A Simplified Approach to Twain: Detailed Analyses and Summaries (1963) and American Literature, Vols. I, II, III (1963).  This particular article was originally published in ELH, an old journal (1934) that “publishes superior studies that interpret the conditions affecting major works in English and American literature” and seeks to “balance historical, critical, and theoretical concerns within the discipline of letters.” 
Abel’s central is claim is straightforward, presented in the first sentence of his article: “The child Pearl is the most ambiguous character in The Scarlet Letter because she is so much more important as symbol than as agent;” rather, Pearl functions as a type, inhabiting a symbolic role that renders her both “unmanageable” and “seriously defective” as a character (50). Abel begins by developing the idea of the “Child of Nature” using Wordsworth’s “Lucy Poems.” However, when he begins to compare Pearl to Lucy, he find that Pearl is quite different because she develops under the influence of both nature and nurture, a difference for which he accounts claiming Hawthorne’s “Calvinist tendencies” that preoccupy him with a moral rather than biological conditions (53-54). Ultimately, Pearl, like Hawthorne’s Snow Image, a projection of an ideal, and Feathertop, a mechanical replica of a human, functions as a symbol, not a human agent (64).
This is a peculiar little article for a modern reader. Beyond esoteric language (the man loves his Latin quips), the very ends of the article are different: Predating Wimsatt and Beardsley (“The Intentional Fallacy” was published several years later), “Hawthorne’s Pearl” is preoccupied with authorial intent. Even more foreign, however, is Abel’s sense of obligation to correct and comment upon the merits the text he studies. Allow me to provide an example from the end of the article: “Most of Pearl’s shortcomings as a character obviously proceed from the unmanageable burden of symbolism she has been required to carry (63)… I believe that he could have [established a character] by devising for her relationships, however slight, with persons in the story…Artistically, Pearl is a failure. She serves her author’s ideas to well to assume a convincing life of her own” (66). Abel is doing vastly different work than modern critics, and I’m not entirely comfortable with it; perhaps this is constructive in itself. I’ll leave it to the class to weigh whether this challenging but instructive article deserves a place in our reading.
--Wfenton 17:23, 15 April 2012 (EDT)
Green, Martin Burgess. "The Hawthorne Myth: A Protest." Re-appraisals: some commonsense readings in American Literature. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1965. 61-86. Print.
The “protest” Green mentions in the title of his essay is a vehement one: Green not only disputes the claim that the contradictions and incongruities in Hawthorne’s writing are redeemable by invoking “irony,” but he also disputes that Hawthorne’s writing is in any way, at all, redeemable. Beginning with a detailed investigation into the nomenclature of “romance” which explores the role of the symbolic, Green states that Hawthorne, rather than exploring the actuality of the American experience, deals exclusively with “great established truth of the popular heart” (63). In attempting to escape the rigors of realism, Hawthorne instead revels in “unreality” (67). Green seethes that “Young Goodman Brown” is not an allegory because it “allegorizes nothing” (74); the character of Chillingworth is fundamentally nonsensical and vacillates among different roles which are neither explained nor reconciled (78-81); narrative exposition either actually reveals nothing or reveals something we already knew (82).
Martin Burgess Green is a prolific author who has been published many times in the twentieth century, including Children of the sun : a narrative of "decadence" in England after 1918. I could not find much biographical information on him minus his birth year (1927) and that he is, apparently, still alive.
Green’s article is founded in historicist criticism (he uses biographical information in order to extrapolate Hawthorne’s intent, or lack thereof) but more relies on close reading. This is a useful polemic because it really attacks several key purported “universal truths” about Hawthorne studies and provides a groundwork for further discussion (especially in light of Stone's response). In a less positive sense, this chapter (as part of a longer work, Re-appraisals : Some commonsense readings in American fiction) is relatively brief and could benefit from more insistent investigation into both Hawthorne’s own motivations and critical responses to The Scarlet Letter and other works.
--Bernardd 14:09, 13 April 2012 (EDT)
Stone, Edward. "Chillingworth and His 'Dark Necessity'." College Literature 4.2 (1977). 136-43. JSTOR. Web. 13 Apr. 2012.
I found this article during a search on Chillingworth, a character I thought may exist as a topic of much research conversation. I searched JSTOR by his character name and the novel, and received this article as one of my top results.
Edward Stone’s essay is a measured response to Green’s work on delegitimizing the “Hawthorne myth.” While Green targets Hawthorne at his very foundation, Stone focuses instead on a specific point of Green’s: that of Roger Chillingworth, and his alleged stasis. Stone instead wishes to redeem Chillingworth from the realm of “flat” characters and emphasize his dynamism which Green has failed to illuminate. Stone believes that Green has either missed or ignored the intricacies of Chillingworth’s character because he has failed to read The Scarlet Letter as “a literary exercise in moral theology” (135, emphasis in original).
The singular, unchanging Chillingworth which Green makes rather central to his argument about Hawthorne’s inconsistency is absent here: Stone presents evidence that there are two Chillingworths. The Chillingworth which appears at the beginning of the novel, administering to Hester and Pearl in the prison, is similar to the Chillingworth Hester remembers: fair, kind, just. He takes responsibility for their failed marriage, for example. The revenge he enacts over the course of The Scarlet Letter is a new development in his character, but a development which he does not attempt to obscure or to disavow responsibility for. The deterministic fatalism of the new Chillingworth, Stone notes, is much more John Calvin than Francis Bacon (141).
Edward Stone was a professor at Ohio University, a recipient of a Fulbright grant, and a specialist in American literature. There is an award bearing his name at Ohio University. In this article, he uses close reading in order to best relate his point; he is surgical in pulling apart sentences and dissecting them in redeeming Chillingworth and restoring his free will. I felt that this article provided an interesting insight into an enigmatic character, and also revealed one thread of discourse which was occurring in Hawthorne studies in the 60s and 70s, one heavily influenced by close reading rather than discrete theoretical fields.
--Bernardd 14:09, 13 April 2012 (EDT)
Barlowe, Jamie. Rereading Women: Hester Prynne-Ism and the Scarlet Mob of Scribblers. American Literary History 9.2 (1997): 197-225.
Jamie Barlowe’s metacritical essay identifies a problem she sees in the criticism of The Scarlet Letter: the male domination of the critical discourse surrounding the book problematically re-inscribes the very structure of the book—male writers discussing female transgression and social repentance. She exhaustively and convincingly illustrates the subtle yet pervasive silencing of the voices of female scholars (either by ignoring their work, reducing it as symptomatic of a ‘movement,’ or treating it as Other). In this sense, the essay is a response to everything written before its publication and is useful as a roadmap for identityfing the influential volumes and names in Hawthorne criticism. She accuses the academy of sleepwalking through its own assumptions: “In that somnambulant space of epistemological familiarity, assumptions are not acknowledged or discussed, critical paradigms are not deeply challenged, questions are not asked, the unconscious does not exist, consequences for the Other are not considered, and changes (other than superficial, easily reversible ones) are not made” (209).
Barlowe’s essay is dealing with a pair of (perhaps) conflicting discourses. First, she identifies what she sees as the mainstream critical discussion of Hawthorne’s text—a discourse that goes back, at least, to the 1950s. Second, and perhaps less explicitly, she is relying on new and evolving conceptions of gender which calls for the “disrupt[ion]” and “destabilizat[ion]” of prevailing critical and gender assumptions.
Professor Barlowe, who teaches in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at the Univeristy of Toledo, went on to write a full length book entitled The Scarlet Mob of Scribblers: Rereading Hester Prynne and has published regularly on feminist perspectives on Hemingway, James, and Hollywood adaptations of “classic” American literature. I’m going to bite the bullet and recommend this for general consumption for a few reasons: First, it’s an interesting and provocative argument which I think belongs in a methods class such as ours. Second, by virtue of its critique, it gives a broad overview of the history of Hawthorne criticism. Lastly, and most interstingly, the journal volume which this essay is published in has 3 responses to Barlowe’s essay (by Leland S. Person, T. Walter Herbert, and Emily Miller Budick) in addition to a “Response to the Responses” by Barlowe. All are quite brief and would allow us to literally look at a critical conversation happening live and discuss the methodological assumptions of each of the critics.
--AndrewFerris 09:02, 14 April 2012 (EDT)
Baym, Nina. "Revisiting Hawthorne's Feminism." Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 30 (2004): 32-55. Rpt. in The Scarlet Letter and Other Writings. Ed. Leland S. Person. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. 541-558. Print.
I chose this article because Baym, a leading scholar in Hawthorne criticism, offers a helpful summary of prior criticism on Hawthorne and gender, responding to several critics (including her own previous argument) to reassert Hawthorne as a feminist writer from The Scarlet Letter onward. Baym has argued this point in various articles and books in the 1970s and 1980s and reflects that her “idea of Hawthorne as a feminist has been overwhelmingly rejected” (541). In this essay she summarizes her previous arguments and the critical responses to them and concludes with a revised, more nuanced argument to support her original thesis.
Baym previously argued that Hawthorne presents “dark” and “fair” women—the former sympathetic, but flawed, and embodiments of artistic creativity, the latter a “‘social myth’ invented by patriarchal culture to discipline [“dark”] women”—to show both the misogyny of the construction of the “fair” women and the “dark” women struggling against these constructs (542). Hawthorne’s sympathetic portrayal of “dark” women and his exposure of a pervasive nineteenth-century American misogyny led Baym to view Hawthorne as a feminist: “no true patriarch, I thought, could have invented Hester” (542). Furthermore, she had supported her arguments in various essays with close-readings of The Scarlet Letter and Hawthorne’s biography: she demonstrated how Hawthorne identifies with Hester and her “A” in “The Custom-House”; conjectured that Hawthorne’s exposure to the Transcendentalists made him more socially liberal; and posited Hester as a version of Hawthorne’s recently-deceased mother. In this last argument, Baym asserts that, despite Hawthorne’s ambivalent relationship with his mother, his novel supports Hester rather than “the stultifying, untrustworthy authority of Uncle Sam’s Custom-House” (544).
According to Baym, her many dissenting critics make several overlapping arguments: they posit Hawthorne’s “dark” or “real” women as threats to masculinity that Hawthorne punishes and/or contains; they point to Hawthorne’s anxieties towards female writers and the increasingly feminized vocation of authorship; and they assert that female characters support a conservative, capitalist agenda. Baym briefly details the works of some of her critics, who use six different critical approaches—“Puritan/traditionalist, masculinity, gay/queer, feminist, political, and biographical studies”—to make similar arguments (544).
After demonstrating the arguments of her critics, Baym revises her earlier thesis. She claims that Hawthorne’s feminist writing “exactly fits” the description of contemporary feminist writing, which shows how women can either exist without men or coexist with men following social reform (549). Additionally, she argues that Hawthorne’s critiques of women act to reform some of the errors in their thought; his female characters are imperfect, but that does not invalidate their thoughts and symbolic value. Where Baym significantly rethinks her prior arguments, however, is in Hawthorne’s perception of the two sexes and his belief in human nature. Baym writes that she now believes that Hawthorne sees males and females as essentially different (women have more heart and are less self-absorbed in his works) and suggests that Hawthorne imagines “palliative and far from romantic” societal changes to improve women’s lives: “Society can begin to compensate for the trials and consequences of women’s greater heart. Women’s lot can be eased; they can be helped rather than punished; their humanity can be affirmed by recognizing their equality with men, their intellects respected, possibilities opened for them other than the domesticity that has failed them” (556-7). Most of all, Baym says Hawthorne affirms that marriage must be a choice, not a demand.
I would highly recommend this article; since Hawthorne’s scholarship presents the most immense array of criticism we have seen thus far, this detailed summary of gender critics and Baym’s contested characterization of Hawthorne as a feminist shows how arguments made from the 1970s are still being explored, evaluated, and revised. Baym is an English professor at the university of Illinois, whose primary research interests are nineteenth-century American literature and American women's writing. She has written, as this summary suggests, extensively about Hawthorne in books (see Shape of Hawthorne's Career) and journal articles, with her popularly cited and critically debated argument of Hawthorne as feminist sparking decades of debates. Her scholarship has implications beyond discussions of Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter, raising important questions about how feminist literature (and its authors) are determined and how nineteenth-century authors perceived gender and themselves as writers of gender.
--KevinS 01:50, 10 April 2012 (EDT)
Derrick, Scott S. "'A Curious Subject of Observation and Inquiry': Homoeroticism, the Body, and Authorship in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter". NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 28.3 (1995):308-32.
I discovered this article via the MLA database and the text itself through JSTOR.
Written in the mid-90s, Scott S. Derrick’s article seems to be at the center of a group of parallel theoretical models. It reads the relationship between Dimmesdale and Chillingsworth and posits an underlying homoeroticism. First, Derrick close-reads a few choice moments of the novel to illustrate Hawthorne’s consistent use of bodily images to discuss the relationship between Ms. Prynne’s two suitors. Then he corresponds this imagery of bodily decay and indulgence with a 19th text of male sexual hygiene. Finally, in the third and most interesting section, he enacts a structural analysis of the novel to illustrate the tension between the hetero- and homosexual energies in the text.
The text relies on a number of heavy-weight theoretical gestures, but, in my humble opinion, uses them all to great effect and never gets weighed down. First and foremost, Derrick’s analysis rests on the work of Michel Foucault. Though quoted briefly (and strangely not cited in the bibliography), Foucault’s approach to discourses of sexuality—as both creative and repressive of sexuality—informs Derrick’s readings. Second, Derrick is clearly at the forefront of the burgeoning field of Queer Theory. While not mentioned by name, he does quote from Michael Warner and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and uses their methods of sexual analytics to reveal tensions within the text that go beyond mere hints of homosexuality. Finally, Derrick’s essay uses structuralist analysis (notably the work of Roland Barthes) to illustrate the way the text is manifesting the sexual conflicts that he sees.
Professor Derrick teaches at Rice University now and his monograph, Monumental Anxieties: Feminine Influence and Homoerotic Anxiety in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature, seems to be right in line with the line of questioning in this paper. I would recommend this essay for general consumption. I think it’s an interesting analysis coupled with lots of useful theoretical links.
--AndrewFerris 13:24, 14 April 2012 (EDT)
DeSalvo, Louise. "Nathanial Hawthorne and the Feminists: The Scarlet Letter" Nathaniel HawthorneAtlantic Highlands: Humanities Press International, 1987: 57-76. Rpt. in The Scarlet Letter and Other Writings. Ed Leland S. Person. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005. Print.
I found this in the collection of essays in the back of our Scarlet Letter Norton edition.
I don't think I can write a review of this that isn't colored by my opinion of the article, so let me lay my card on the table: it's not very well written, and it's not a very good article. DeSalvo does get her points across, but with little to no consideration for previous scholarship, except to say, from what I can tell, that all of it is wrong. Well, the feminist ones anyway. DeSalvo sets out to prove that The Scarlet Letter is an anti-feminist, patriarchal book where women are considered useless outside of the context of men and a generally inferior species. The whole of the article is going from example to example in the book where Hawthorne's depiction of one woman or another might be construed as anti-feminist.
I would not recommend this article because, quite frankly, I don't even know why this was included in the Norton Anthology - it's that bad. Nowhere does DeSalvo address any arguments from previous feminist writers who pointed out (rightly, if I may be so bold) that the SL gives a nuanced depiction of the male-female dynamic. Yes, she does point out numerous instances where Hawthorne is writing in an anti-feminist style, but absolutely nowhere does she even nod to the other side of the argument, or give an example of some facet of the text that has been interpreted by previous scholars as feminist, but she proves is anti-feminist. The only reason I can think of to read this in class is as an example of how not to write a scholarly paper. I mean, if this were an undergrad paper, it would be an exceptionally good close reading of the text, but since it's post-grad work, I don't think it's too much to ask for her to address ANY feminist scholarship at all, you know, since this is a feminism article and everything.
--Ecerta 23:32, 13 April 2012 (EDT)
Franzosa, John. "'The Custom-House,' The Scarlet Letter, and Hawthorne's Separation from Salem." ESQ 24 (1978): 57-71. Rpt. in The Scarlet Letter and Other Writings. Ed. Leland S. Person. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. 387-404. Print.
I chose this article because Franzosa helpfully discusses the prior research in psychoanalytic approaches to The Scarlet Letter while also wrestling with several themes pertinent to critical studies of the text: Hawthorne’s views of gender and, especially, women, his experiences at the Custom-House, and his relationships with his mother and Salem. I found this article in the Norton edition of The Scarlet Letter.
Franzosa begins by referencing the Salem Register’s 1850 review of The Scarlet Letter, which briefly praises Hawthorne’s brilliance but mostly condemns his harsh treatment of Salem, comparing Hawthorne’s “‘malice’” against his hometown to Chillingworth’s against his wife (qtd. in Franzosa 387). Franzosa suggests that the Register’s review recognizes what modern readers have not: it “not only demonstrated the unity of [“The Custom-House”] and the narrative it introduces, but unwittingly identified the important psychological themes operating in the Scarlet Letter” (388). Previous scholarship from critics such as David Stouck, Nina Baym, Dan McCall, and Charles R. O’Donnell identify the text’s major psychological themes as the individual’s rebellion against authority, the development of a personal identity, and the reconciling (or lack thereof) of desire and guilt. Shifting the focus from previous studies of The Scarlet Letter and its preface, Franzosa uses the review to emphasize the text’s “themes of dependence—nourishment, loss, and rejection—themes which because of their developmental priority shape more mature relationships between self and other” (388).
Franzosa’s psychoanalytic approach looks at the first chapter of the The Scarlet Letter, which presents mother figures inside and outside the prison. These figures, Franzosa argues, represent “the metaphoric, the literal, and . . . the latent maternal women who, through the figure of Hester, provide the matrix from which characters, motives, and meanings will separate, clarify, conflict, and resolve” (389). Most notably, Franzosa asserts that these maternal figures have both masculine (representing the law) and feminine (associating with religion) qualities, which presents the image of the “phallic mother”—a fantasy of mother as both parents, which Hawthorne, whose father was absent, may have himself imagined (Franzosa 390). Hester, in particular, fits this image: she is both maternal and self-reliant and embodies transgressions of both the law and religion. Franzosa argues that turning mother into father denies the loss of the father, and he connects this to Hawthorne’s many denials of loss: his refusal to accept his removal from his position at the Custom-House, the absence of his father, and the loss of his mother.
Franzosa also discusses Hawthorne’s ambivalent relationship with his mother (and the trauma of her loss and its impact on The Scarlet Letter) as well as themes of possession and intrusion, separation and return, dependence and independence, and inward guilt and outward shame. The last binary theme forms the identity of Hawthorne’s/“The Custom-House’s” narrator; he feels both guilty for his ancestors’ legacy of persecution and shameful of his Salem community. However, Franzosa writes that Hawthorne’s mother’s death alleviates his guilt, leaving him “no tie to Salem or to his paternal ancestors . . . With ‘The Custom-House,’ Hawthorne claims to give up that part of himself which has identified with Salem, with the ancestral dust in the native soil” (Franzosa 404). Despite Hawthorne’s repudiation of his town, however, Franzosa notes that only Hawthorne’s fiction shows that only his characters can escape Salem, not their author.
As suggested, Franzosa mixes autobiography and history in his psychoanalytic reading of The Scarlet Letter and its author. Franzosa likely no longer teaches, since I cannot find any biographical information about him, yet he published at least two other articles on Hawthorne: “A Psychoanalysis of Hawthorne’s Style” and “The Language of Inflation in ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter,’” so evidently Hawthorne comprised an important piece of Franzosa’s scholarship. Although Franzosa discusses gender blurring and mixing, his argument is specific to Hawthorne and The Scarlet Letter: it does not make or suggest broader claims about, for instance, other authors using similar strategies to cope with loss or absence (although it opens up the possibility for such an approach). I would recommend this article because it initially shows the direction of Hawthorne psychoanalytic scholarship and then adds a new dimension to it; however, many critics that cite Franzosa’s article accuse him of following the methodologies of many of the critics he challenges.
--KevinS 01:40, 10 April 2012 (EDT)
Greven, David. "Masculinist Theory and Romantic Authorship, Or Hawthorne, Politics, Desire." New Literary History 39.4 (2008): 971-987. Project MUSE. Web. 13 Apr. 2012.
I found this article by searching “The Scarlet Letter” and “Gender” on Project MUSE. It intrigued me, and I used several of the articles it references to try to open up a slice of a long-running discussion in Scarlet Letter criticism.
Greven takes issue with the “political” criticism of The Scarlet Letter as performed by Arac and Berkovitch, et al, as needlessly heterosexist and masculinist. The shallow discussion of the topic of gender—widely understood to be at the crux of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature—is only one of the most glaring faults in the relegation of political discussion to the (male, heterosexual) “public sphere.” These authors are part of a trend towards blending Marxist and Foucauldian criticisms and creating what Greven terms a “'Bad School' of leftist literary criticism” (971). This emphasis on the political, the “scientific,” demands that literary criticism be objective and effaces the more fluid, creative aspects which are part of literature and its study.
Each of the three main critics with whom Greven takes issue—Rowe, Arac, and Berkovitch—receive specific attention in discrete sections. Greven chastises them not only for their narrow-minded approach which perpetuates masculine paradigms and rigid methods of analyzing literature, but for ignoring important biographical information about Hawthorne that distances the author himself from a uniform “machismo” and, thus, would make viewing his work in a gender-neutral or at least heterogeneous manner more productive.
David Greven is an Associate Professor at Connecticut College with a specific interest in nineteenth-century American literature, psychoanalytic theory, and gender/queer studies. Although his interest in psychoanalysis is at least partly evident in his exploration of Hawthorne’s personal gender construction, he seems to owe a much larger debt to the school of deconstruction. His deft dismantling of specific essays, and of the art of literary criticism in general, make this a very intriguing read. Moreover, that he talks to two preeminent Hawthorne scholars and educates them via gender and queer matrices indicates to me that this article is a must-read.
--Bernardd 14:27, 13 April 2012 (EDT)
Martin, Robert K. "Hester Prynne, C'est Moi: Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Anxieties of Gender." Engendering Men: The Question of Male Feminist Criticism. Ed. Joseph A. Boone and Michael Cadden. New York: Routledge, 1990. 122-31. Rpt. in The Scarlet Letter and Other Writings. Ed. Leland S. Person. New York: W. W. Norton, 2005. 512-522. Print.
I chose to read Robert K. Martin’s article after perusing our Norton edition and finding this article repeatedly footnoted and discussed. Martin responds to Nina Baym, a leading critic in Hawthorne gender studies, who in turn responds back to him in her article “Revisiting Hawthorne’s Feminism,” which presents a small dialogue in an admittedly very large discourse. I found this article in the Norton edition of The Scarlet Letter.
Martin looks at Hawthorne’s much-maligned quote about the “‘damned mob of scribbing women’” and challenges the perception that it evinces the author’s misogyny; such accusations must take into account the gender anxieties of Hawthorne’s culture as well as Hawthorne’s anxieties about his own gender, Martin stresses (512). Advancing the work of Nina Baym and revising that of Leland S. Person, Martin asserts that he will foray where few, if any, critics have by investigating Hawthorne’s relationships with women through two lenses: Hawthorne’s perceptions of his own masculinity and nineteenth-century America’s attitudes towards female artists.
Martin’s reading of gender thus combines queer and gender studies, close-readings, and biographical and historical research. For example, he acknowledges Hawthorne’s self-deprecating remark where he calls himself a “‘scribbler’” (512) and illuminates the class implications of the word “mob,” which he claims resonates “a Carlylean fear of the French Revolution [that] conflates the uncontrolled political expression of the lower classes with the threat of an unbridled sexuality” (513). This explication shows Hawthorne’s insecurities with his gender as well as his fear of powerful women; however, Hawthorne writes the story of and identifies with the powerful Hester Prynne. Martin argues that the text, then, shows anxieties about two types of intrusions of gendered space: women’s intrusions into Hawthorne’s male world and vice-versa. Hawthorne on the one hand enters the “manly” profession of novel writing (compared to his more feminine short stories, Martin writes), but on the other hand publishing The Scarlet Letter “meant betraying the fathers by abandoning the gentility of anonymity and domestic seclusion and by becoming . . . the scarlet woman” (Martin 514).
Martin focuses a large portion of his reading on “The Custom-House,” which shows Hawthorne yearning for a period when gender roles were not so rigid; Martin claims that Hawthorne feels alienated from the Custom-House’s realm of business, which leads him to question his masculine identity. The preface’s discussion of decapitation suggests a political death (removal from the Custom-House) as well as the death of patriarchal ancestry, which Hawthorne feels would include him. Hawthorne avoids this execution by becoming Hester Prynne, committing the crime of transvestism where he places the scarlet “letter ‘on [his] breast,’ thereby re-eroticizing the male body” (Martin 519). Although Hawthorne fears Hester’s power, he identifies with her: they both experience public shame and expulsion from the locus of male interaction. Hester “becomes his voice because she speaks so clearly for the kind of freedom that Hawthorne would not allow her or himself” (Martin 520-1).
Beyond Hawthorne’s text, Martin’s research has implications for the study of nineteenth-century representations of female artists and male writes relationships with a burgeoning female authorship. Martin’s work also shows the nuanced discussion of Hawthorne’s treatment of gender, which almost inevitably leads to an equal analysis of the author. Martin passed away less than two months ago, but is remembered as “one of the first academics to appear on the lgbt Canadian scene”. Martin wrote extensively using queer theory to explicate nineteenth-century American literature, showing a particular interest in the histories of gender and race. I would recommend this article because Martin appears to be a leading scholar in Hawthorne as well as queer studies, and this essay is continually referenced by scholars including Baym, who revises her original arguments following the interventions of Martin and other select scholars.
--KevinS 01:50, 10 April 2012 (EDT)
Charvat, William. “James T. Fields and the Beginnings of Book Promotion, 1840-1855.” Huntington Library Quarterly 8.1 (1944): 75–94. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3815866
I located Charvat in the notes of several of our class readings. I chose to annotate him because he seems to be an important voice in the emergence of New Historicism; dating back to WWII (1944) this essay functions as my earliest source of Hawthorne criticism.
William Chavrat was professor of American literature at Ohio State University before he died in 1966. Today the University has dedicated a collection of rare American fiction titles in his name in “recognition of his contribution to the conceptual development of the American fiction collection at the Ohio State University.”  Literary Publishing in America, 1790-1850  is often considered a foundation text in book history. I was attracted to this particular essay after the Tompkins reading piqued my interest in publisher James T. Fields.
Charvat begins by joining Matthiessen and Brooks in acknowledging the “efflorescence of American literature about the middle of the nineteenth century” (75), but pivots a historical critique of the publishing machinery—particularly the idea of book promotion—that enabled that “efflorescence.” Citing the importance of local, geographic advantages, Charvat pinpoints the rise of the Boston literary scene at two publishing houses: Houghton Mifflin Company and Ticknor and Fields. He argues that Hawthorne publisher James Fields possessed unique talents for what would larger be called “promotion” (77-78), incubating connections with critics at periodicals and papers, creating a network of distinguished authors, and overcoming regional divisions in the disparate antebellum marketplace.
Despite its age, this article is packed with useful historical details on the publishing machinery through which SL was published and promoted. I particularly enjoyed the information about the Fields’ friendly critics including, Griswold, the “patron of publicity” (82), and Whipple. Charvat captures one particularly evocative exchange from the “modest” Whipple to Griswold: “The Truth is, from my connection with literary organs, I enjoy a great deal of power, which would make me a dangerous gentleman to abuse” (85). He also includes excellent context on Fields sponsored rising critics to ensure friendly reviews; his hiring of Alden to provide some articles and write some book notices for Atlantic pays off many fold when Alden, later the Managing Editor at Harper’s, places his authors for reviews. I would say that this article is useful for two reasons: First, Charvat does a fine a job narrativizing print culture at the time during which Hawthorne published SL; and second, Charvat is himself an historical landmark in the vista of Hawthorne studies.
--Wfenton 17:23, 15 April 2012 (EDT)
Gilmore, Michael T. "Hawthorne and the Making of the Middle Class." 597-614. The Scarlet Letter and Other Writings. Ed Leland S. Person. New York: W.W. Norton, 2005. Print.
I located Gilmore in Norton book and selected this essay for entirely selfish reasons: I wanted to learn more about class in Hawthorne. It also happens that this essay also serves two additional functions: First, this particular article, originally published in 1994, serves as my 1990s Hawthorne criticms representative; and second, Michal T. Gilmore is, in the words of our Vice President, a BFD.
As Paul Prosswimmer Professor of American Literature at Brandeis University,  Gilmore specializes in eighteenth and nineteenth-American Literature, American history and political thought, and Puritanism. He’s published landmark books, including The Middle Way: Puritanism and Ideology in American Romantic Fiction (1977), American Romanticism and the Marketplace (1988), Differences in the Dark (1998), Surface and Depth: The Quest for Legibility in American Culture (2006), and, most recently, The War on Words: Slavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature (2010). His books have received (glowing) praise from the likes of Sacvan Bercovitch, Lawrence Buell, and Robert A. Ferguson, and even our very own Keywords wiki. 
Gilmore is laser-focused on class. While he already sees plenty of critical attention to gender and public-private spheres—much of which, to be fair, imbues gender and the family with class determinants—Gilmore sees Hawthorne mapping the emergence of middle-class identity and revealing the contradictory and unsettled nature of the new organization (598). If Gilmore sees SL helping to shape middle-class identity, then he sees it also muddying its boundaries even as it seems to suggest that they’re stable; in the process Hawthorne undoes his own synchronizations of gender roles, private and public spheres, and socioeconomic categories (599). Given that Gilmore sees class everywhere, it’s little surprise that his class readings also lead him into feminist critique—Hester as “woman in transition” (602) or “American Adam” (606)—and biography—Hawthorne’s own precarious financial position (612).
Gilmore is spoiling for a larger fight. He opens his article by taking issue with a critical consensus that confines class to the margins of antebellum American literature and declares that he’ll use SL to challenge that status quo (599). He ends his paper by returning to the larger fray: If this reading of The Scarlet Letter accomplishes nothing else, it is meant to suggest here too change is necessary. Class, no less a social construction than gender and race, has been just as fluid and difficult to ascertain exactly. But its existence has been just as real” (614). On one hand, I admire his bellicosity; however, at the same time, I do worry that Hawthorne and SL are being dragged into a bar fight where they don’t necessarily belong (for example, I didn’t find convincing the biographical argument that Hawthorne’s financial dependency cast him into a “feminized” position). That said, for the most part this is a convincing argument and a useful series of contexts well-suited to a class on class.
--Wfenton 17:23, 15 April 2012 (EDT)
Newberry, Frederick. "A Red-Hot A and a Lusting Divine: Sources for the Scarlet Letter." New England Quarterly 60.2 (1987):256-264. EBSCOhost. 14 April 2012. Web. web.ebscohost.com
I found this article in an EBSCOhost search for "The Scarlet Letter." I had seen it cited and recommended in a few other articles beforehand as well, which is why I chose it.
Newberry gives a short but detailed look into the life of a Puritan woman named Mary Batchellor, who shares such an astounding number of coincidences in her circumstances with Hester, that she was likely an prototype fore Hester in the SL. She was convicted of adultery after bearing a child out of wedlock, and branded with the letter A on her forehead. I'd give more details, but honestly the article is so short that it is hard to summarize any more without flat-out re-typing it.
Newberry is addressing previous scholarship which paid a great deal of attention to Hester's predecessor in in "Endicott and the Red Cross," and also the implication that his primary historical influence came from the instance Goodwife Mendame, who had to wear the letters "AD" sewn into the sleeve of her dress for the rest of her life for adultery. It seems like Newberry discovered Batchellor, and was bringing her to the attention of scholarship as a more likely historical source for the SL. However, as I said before, many future authors I've read or skimmed for this week's readings make reference to Batchellor through this article.
I would recommend this because it is clearly seminal to the source material research conversation concerning the SL. As an added bonus, it's quite short, so it could be a fifth reading without breaking anyone's workloads.
--Ecerta 01:44, 14 April 2012 (EDT)
Singley, Carol J. "Adoption Averted in the Scarlet Letter." Adopting America: Childhood, Kinship and National Identity in Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.
First off, in case we choose this chapter, here's a link to Fordham library's webpage for the ebook. The link to it as at the bottom of the page. http://tinyurl.com/cmtof3h
I found this book in a Fordham library catalogue search for "Scarlet Letter."
This article delves into 19th century changing views about childhood development and maternal vs. paternal duties and influences on children, and sees how they manifest themselves in the Scarlet Letter. This article is not so much an argument or a refutation of earlier research conversations as an expansion into uncharted territory in Hawthorne scholarship, concerning the historical background and familial concerns of Hawthorne which would feed into the novel's portrayals of family. Singley does reference several scholars who have focused on the nature of Pearl or Hester's maternity or the mother-father dynamic of Hester and Dimmesdale, but overall her interest is historical. She delves into Hawthorne's troubled childhood, changing 19th century adoption laws and moral conceptions of the right of paternal abandonment (pertinent, since Pearl is abandoned by her father and almost taken away from her mother) and what was considered maternal aptitude for women who had born children out of wedlock. These are just a few of the areas Singley explores too, and her analysis really does a fantastic job placing the book in its cultural context.
This chapter was a really fascinating and easy read; Singley's writing style is very clear and makes the chapter go by quickly, and her research is thorough and enlightening. My only reservation about recommending it for class reading is that it doesn't so much engage in a previous Hawthorne research conversation as strike out on its own brilliant but unique path. Still an excellent contribution to Hawthorne criticism, though.
--Ecerta 23:02, 13 April 2012 (EDT)
Traister, Bryce. "The Bureaucratic Origins of The Scarlet Letter," Studies in American Fiction 29 (Spring 2001): 77-92. Print.
I located this essay via Google Search and purchased it using Amazon Digital Delivery. I selected it for three main reasons: First, Traister had me at the title; second, I enjoyed Traister’s writing on Rowlandson;  and third, considering this article was published in the superb journal Studies in American Fiction, edited by our very own Maria Farland,  I knew that the odds of success were in my favor. Published in 2001, Traister’s article also provides a bit of balance to my later three annotations, cutting between Gilmore (originally published in 1994) and Coale (published in the last year).
Bryce Traister is Associate Professor at University of Western Ontario.  He’s very young in his career, but he’s published a number of articles (see the aforementioned link for a complete list) and claims interest in the literary, religious, and political cultures that emerged between 1620 and 1900. He is currently finishing a manuscript entitled Female Piety and the Invention of American Puritanism,  a study of women, Protestantism, and secular concepts of belief.
Traister’s central argument is that SL is a novel preoccupied with individual privacy predicated upon and derived from official forms of public meaning-making. For this reason, “The Custom-House” occupies the central space of his study. While other critics have attended to the psychological-biographical history of the novel’s creation, Traister argues that the Custom-House, a site “inventive meaning-making,” deserves a place in the literary imagination because it stages a confrontation between historical literature and bureaucracy from which a model of autonomous literary authorship emerges (pages 2-4 in my printout). Traister configures his argument using Derrick and Herbert and then turns to historical and biographical context on bureaucracy, the public sphere, and literary authorship (stressing the point that the employees of the bureaucracy live apart from the political and market forces they reflect and administer).
As a Custom-House enthusiast, I was pleased with the context on and close-reading of the introduction. While parts of the argument moved a bit quickly for my taste, I was pleased with Traister’s inclusion of Melville’s “Bartleby” and his context on civic neutrality as a basis of transcendentalism. I would recommend the article if our readings take us into more specialized contexts.
--Wfenton 17:23, 15 April 2012 (EDT)
Politics and Race
Arac, Jonathan. "The Politics of The Scarlet Letter". Ideology and Classic American Literature. Sacvan Bercovitch and Myra Jehlen, Eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. 240-266. Print.
I found this article after finding the Greven article. As Greven makes Arac’s work here one of the key most prominent in his essay, I decided to examine it as part of a critical conversation. I searched the book at the Fordham Library.
Arac firmly argues for specificity in analyzing The Scarlet Letter, maintaining that critics have long characterized the book as emblematic of “indeterminacy” and thus avoided placing the book in a larger sociopolitical and historical framework. Arac’s main contention is that the specter of slavery hovers behind the narrative of The Scarlet Letter and that Hawthorne’s “work of art” is both a representation of Hawthorne’s personal political views as well as an allegory for the author’s prescription to cure the slavery problem in antebellum United States. In a move apparently quite common among critics, Arac conceives of “The Custom-House” as an allegorical interlude to the story proper which “personalizes” Hawthorne’s politics (253) and corresponds strongly to views expressed in Hawthorne’s Franklin Pierce biography The Life of Pierce.
In Arac’s analysis of The Scarlet Letter, passivity reigns over the novel. Hawthorne much prefers character to action: he narrates long periods where nothing really happens; when something does happen, not much actually happens; or, finally, if, God forbid, something were to happen, it would happen as a result of nature rather than as consequent to human agency. This inaction of Hawthorne’s novel stems from the “structure of conflicting values” which Arac finds in 1850, Hawthorne’s belief that the abolition of slavery (despite his personal disapproval of the institution) would upset the stability of the Union chief among such conflicts. Jonathan Arac has worked at Columbia University and is currently at University of Pittsburgh. He has published four books, and his areas of interest are American and British culture and literature in and before the nineteenth century. “The Politics of The Scarlet Letter” is almost aggressively poststructuralist and historicist: Arac dismantles the multitudes of theoretical approaches to The Scarlet Letter which blatantly ignore the contextual framework which, he argues, directly informed Hawthorne’s art. I would recommend this article for class reading and discussion, as it enters into a contentious space of the political role of The Scarlet Letter.
--Bernardd 14:23, 13 April 2012 (EDT)
Bercovitch, Sacvan. "The Red Badge of Compromise." The Office of The Scarlet Letter. By Sacvan Berkovitch. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. Print. 73-.
In this lengthy chapter from The Office of The Scarlet Letter, Bercovitch expounds upon Arac’s historical contextualization of The Scarlet Letter by not only detailing the tenuous compromises between abolitionists and pro-slavery factions (a la Arac), but also by incorporating the fear arising from the spread of communism across Europe in the mid nineteenth century. Bercovitch notes specifically the “political innuendos” at play in “The Custom-House” which allude to the guillotine, a symbol of European revolution (75). Through Bercovitch’s lens, Hester becomes not some feminist agitator against Puritan patriarchy, but rather an emblem of the nihilism endemic to that movement and an augur of great (and grave?) changes to come within the domestic sphere, if communism were to take hold. (Bercovitch notices the concurrent women’s rights conventions, including Seneca Falls, as further cause for alarm among antebellum conservatives and additional context which renders Hester all the more threatening, and her submission to Puritanical values all the more reassuring.)
Bercovitch expands Arac’s allegations that Hawthorne preferred stability to egalitarianism by introducing the “Red plague”: Hawthorne frequently made comparisons between abolitionists and “terrorist” separatists in Europe, a revelation which makes Bercovitch’s citations from Hawthorne’s The Life of Pierce all the more effective. Hawthorne feared chaos that abolition would bring and motivated him to write a Scarlet Letter which would occupy a politically “centrist position” which extols the virtues of “gradualism” (87). The book, then, much like the scarlet letter itself, is an “ambiguous artifact of authority” (112).
This article is essentially historicist: Bercovitch engages various historical and political discourses in order to relate the contentious political atmosphere in which Hawthorne wrote and to which he necessarily responded. Poststructuralism is also at play here, as Berkovitch moves Hawthorne away from simplistic genre categorization (e.g., "romance"). Although Bercovitch’s article is dense and somewhat difficult to categorize, it dovetails well with Arac’s argument and is also integral to the “school of thought” to which Greven responds in his essay. Sacvan Bercovitch is a Canadian Americanist who has worked at Dartmouth, Tel-Aviv University, and currently works at Harvard. He is a prolific author and well-regarded professor.
--Bernardd 14:32, 13 April 2012 (EDT)
Berlant, Lauren. "The Paradise of Law in The Scarlet Letter." The anatomy of national fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and everyday life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
I chose to seek out Lauren Berlant’s book because I knew it was largely about The Scarlet Letter and was sick of hearing it mentioned/cited without having any idea what it was really about. I chose this chapter both because it was the first chapter wholly devoted to The Scarlet Letter and because it seemed to stand moderately well on its own.
Berlant’s approach to Hawthorne’s novel, in this chapter, is engaging with questions of law and culture: How are individual shaped by law? How is society organized by law? How might scripture or “natural law” come into play in Hawthorne’s Puritan context? What is the real source of authority? What is the relationship between an imagined utopia and the actual laws used to bring that utopia about? While he is only cited once in the chapter (more in other chapters), I think it is fair to say that Berlant’s reading using a lot of the analytic technology of the work of Michel Foucault (in a different way than Derrick’s essay does). Berlant is looking closely at the intersection between three different instances of legal interaction: the punished’s interaction with law; the public who witnesses this punishment; and the punishers, who at once interpret, embody, and carry out the law. She articulates this complicatedness and ambiguity (a common theme in criticism of this novel) when she writes, “By so defining Hester as outside of the law, the state brings her into the law. It supports her with ‘his iron arm’ (78) and she supports it with her golden A” (69). Berlant goes on to illustrate the ambiguous interactions between Hester and the colonies sovereignty by close-reading the scenes in which Hester interacts directly with the Governor and providing, around this close-reading, a great deal of historical and legal knowledge about the conflict over the source and manifestation of sovereignty in the colony.
Berlant’s chapter interacts quite a bit with a number of different critical conversations. First, she does interact with some major names in Hawthorne literary criticism (Baym, Colacrucio, Bercovitch), but more importantly, I think, are the dealings she has with history and historians: She directly cites Nathaniel Ward, John Cotton, John Winthrop, in addition to major historians like Christopher Hill and T.H. Breen. These primary and secondary sources allow the legal and cultural conflicts latent in The Scarlet Letter to become suddenly relevant. I do recommend this essay for general consumption. It’s a thought-provoking argument and, I think, a compelling use of historical source material.
--AndrewFerris 08:30, 14 April 2012 (EDT)
Coale, Samuel Chase. "The Legacy of The Scarlet Letter: Hawthorne in Contemporary Culture." The Entanglements of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Haunted Minds and Ambiguous Approaches. Rochester, New York: Camden House, 2012. Print.
I located The Entanglements of Nathaniel Hawthorne using the Fordham catalogue and selected this text because it provides the most recent Hawthorne criticism available in our library (published last summer with this edition printed this spring). Along with Charvat’s article on James Fields, Coale’s study bookends the sixty-five year scope of criticism encompassed in this week’s annotations.
A Professor of American Literature and Culture at Wheatley College,  Samuel Chase Coale has had a prolific decade, including the publication of Mesmerism and Hawthorne: Mediums of American Romance (2000), The Mystery of Mysteries: Cultural Differences and Designs (2001), Paradigms of Paranoia: The Culture of Conspiracy in Contemporary American Fiction (2005), the locus of this particular chapter and his most recent book, The Entanglements of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Haunted Minds & Ambiguous Approaches (2011), and, finally, Quirks of the Quantum: Postmodernism and Contemporary American Fiction, a book quantum theory’s influences and effects upon contemporary American Fiction, due this October. In addition to his work with Hawthorne, Coale also claims interests in mysteries, gothic fiction, graphic novels, postmodern fiction, the English Romantic poets, and the authors William Faulkner, Toni Morrison, Emily Dickinson, and Don DeLillo.
Given his eclectic research interests, it’s little surprise that Cole’s chapter “The Legacy of SL assesses. While it does pose a sort of argument—that Hawthorne retains an iconic status in American literature and culture (7)—it’s best to think of this chapter maps SL across the terrains of popular culture, journalism, politics, literature, movies, television, theater, and more. Coale opens with an anecdote about the relocation of Hawthorne’s wife’s remains and looks at how the story spreads across major news outlets, all of which suggests, for Coale, a sustained interest in both Hawthorne and his texts. From here he divides his chapter into subsections of SL and the notion of public shaming in political campaigns (“Cultural Icon”), high school pedagogy (“High School”), various forms of media (“Adaptations”), books and theater (“Literary Influences”), and recent conferences, biographies, and editions (“Scholarly Legacy”).
This chapter isn’t a particularly deep dive. At his worst, when he cites an “unscientific web survey” of high school teachers (10), Coale comes across as dilettante, though perhaps other chapters explain his methodology. This isn’t to suggest that the chapter isn’t without its use: Coale finds Hawthorne under every stone, and his last two sections on books, biographies, conferences and editions (16-19) may be relevant for our purposes. However, given the chapter’s diffuse focus and lack of a concrete argument, I can only it as supplemental reading.
--Wfenton 17:23, 15 April 2012 (EDT)
Doyle, Laura. "'A' is for Atlantic in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter." Freedom's Empire: Race and the Rise of the Novel in Atlantic Modernity, 1640-1940. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.
I came across Laura Doyle’s book on my bookshelf. I had acquired the book for a previous project in another class and remembered that the book included a chapter on The Scarlet Letter which situated the book in a transatlantic milieu. Doyle’s book seeks to tell a story that spans the 17th to the 20th Century and deals with the social act of racialization in Atlantic space.
Doyle suggests that the originary problem in The Scarlet Letter is not Hester and Dimmesdale’s sexual transgression, but instead “the transatlantic migration of Hester Prynne alone. It is this fact that determines Heter’s ‘fall’” (301, italics present in original). Doyle goes on to read the novel as one of cultural displacement and colonial conflict. Working off of the criticism of Michael Colacurcio and Sacvan Bercovitch, she sees Hawthorne constructing an American race narrative in which it is “her ability to live in isolation, to survive in a cottage alone on the shore of a strange continent, with all her freedom interiorized, that makes Hester the most successful colonist and the queenly ancestor of an Anglo-American literary community” (320). These claims merge a formal reading of the novel (in which Doyle close-reads Hawthorne’s slippery free-indirect discourse) with an historicist reading that remains cognizant of the Puritan political project (which she correlates with political unrest in Britain which backgrounds the novel).
The chapter is heavily engaged with other historicist readings: Colarcurcio, Bercovitch, Laura Korobkin, Claudia Durst Johnson. However, she adds to this by following Hawthorne’s own very conscious historicism of the novel to deeper conclusions and by repositioning the national narrative within a larger transatlantic story. This chapter (and book) is part of Professor Doyle’s larger project looking at transnationalism, race studies, and genre studies. What makes the chapter (and book) interesting, and I think worthy of our class reading it, is the way she correlates historicist/theoretical arguments with a formalist reading.
--AndrewFerris 08:45, 14 April 2012 (EDT)
Korobkin, Laura Hanft. "The Scarlet Letter of the Law: Hawthorne and Criminal Justice." NOVEL, A Forum on Fiction. 30.2 (1997):193-217. JSTOR. Web. 14 April 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1345700
I found this article in an MLA International Bibliography search for "The Scarlet Letter."
In this article, Korobkin argues that the SL contains an argument in favor of discretionary higher authority. She notes, for instance, the absence of the most typical punishment for adultery, whipping, as evidence that Hawthorne was trying to make the magistrates more sympathetic for their mercy, rather than modern cognates with slave-holders whipping a recalcitrant slave. She also notes how the crowd at the start of the novel is much more cruel to Hester than the magistrates are, thereby making the men in a position of authority in the town to be, ultimately, better suited to determining Hester's punishment and fate. All of this, he argues, is completely ahistorical, as Puritan justice was very much jury-based and democratic, and limiting what little discretionary power the magistrates had was very much a large concern in Puritan society. Considering that Hawthorne did enough research to be able to identify the home addresses of several of his characters, Korobkin concludes that Hawthorne must have known about all of this and turned a blind eye to it, wishing instead to create a society where discretionary power is dominant and just.
This article was very clear, well-written and well-argued, and she addresses many of the big names in Hawthorne criticism. She plays off Colacurio's argument about the historical fabrications in the text in saying she wishes to expand on his work and expose more of the text's ahistoricisms. She also addresses Arac's arguments that Hawthorne evinces a consciousness of abolitionism and fugitive slave laws, in that she says Hawthorne makes a conscious effort not to make Hester look like a slave (like she would were she whipped) and thereby emphasize the mercy of the magistrates. Still, like any good article, she takes her interpretation in a new direction that expands on Hawthorne scholarship.
I would absolutely recommend this article for class. Not only is it clear and well-argued, but it obviously participates in distinct Hawthorne research conversations. I'm glad I found it.
--Ecerta 12:18, 14 April 2012 (EDT)
Gilmore, Michael T. “Hawthorne and Politics (Again): Words and Deeds in the 1850s.” Hawthorne and the Real: Bicentennial Essays. Ed. Millicent Bell. Columbus, OH: Ohio State UP, 2005. Google Books. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. http://books.google.com/books?id=24HXF1jsga4C&pg=PA22&lpg=PA22&dq=Hawthorne+and+Politics+%28Again%29:+Words+and+Deeds+in+the+1850s&source=bl&ots=2eFAOQ0eJ8&sig=-AOcPqI8t2emZ1eOonHr-iYwJaM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=BiuLT9yVAaTf0QG36_DtCQ&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Hawthorne%20and%20Politics%20%28Again%29%3A%20Words%20and%20Deeds%20in%20the%201850s&f=false
I found Michael T. Gilmore’s article through a Google Scholar search of Hawthorne and chose his essay because Gilmore’s name has recurred in my readings. I obtained the article through Google Books.
As Gilmore’s title suggests, he visits Hawthorne’s repeatedly-discussed political views. Gilmore does not wish to alter radically what he sees as the consensus on Hawthorne’s and politics: that Hawthorne is an inactivist (as opposed to an activist) whose fictions gave “form to the age’s ethical and legislative impasse, the Compromise of 1850” and who “regarded idealistic political action, whether against slavery or any other injustice, as a wrongful arrogation of God’s power to dispose of human affairs when and how He saw fit” (22). Instead, Gilmore wishes to examine the conflict of slavery, specifically how it aroused the contentiousness, and sometimes loss, of freedom of speech. Gilmore’s historical research of antebellum America details the “repeated assaults on free speech,” including violent and occasionally fatal riots in both the north and south against citizens voicing their opinions on slavery (23). Speech and the circulation of ideas became “invested with a power that they had not enjoyed in American culture since the Revolution” (23). Gilmore asserts that slavery therefore curtailed the freedoms of whites wherever it existed, with the strongest suppression of freedom of speech occurring in the 1850s.
Gilmore uses historical and intertextual examples to show how writers responded to slavery’s verbal restrictions. He writes that the influence of the verbal was understood by the Romantics, citing Emerson’s Nature and Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” as examples, as well as writers like Frederick Douglass, whose memoir shows his constraints on literacy and speech as a slave, and Melville, who created the verbally skilled Captain Ahab that “commandeers the ship of state through a combination of demagogic oratory and ‘tricks of the stage’” (25).
Gilmore then turns to Hawthorne, looking first at Hawthorne’s 1852 biography of Franklin Pierce. Hawthorne praises Pierce’s honesty, straightforwardness, and most of all reticence: Pierce’s actions do the talking for him, Hawthorne seems to say. Gilmore writes that “what Hawthorne’s text urges most forcefully is the quarantining of discursive agility from the practical realm of politics” (28). Hawthorne portrays himself as a man of words, Pierce a man of actions, yet Gilmore contends that this seemingly natural division between words and actions masks the power of the artist (the man of words) to arouse “anarchic energy dangerous to civil peace. The pose of linguistic/artistic innocence or impotence is just that, a pose” (28).
At times the two domains seem separate: the articulate narrator of The Scarlet Letter contrasts with the ruling elders of Boston, who preach with “‘no fluency of words.’ Hawthorne reiterates that while the community’s eminent men possess dignity and respectability, they lack the gift of imagination” (30). Like the elders, Hester is remarkably reserved, showing Hawthorne’s distrust of discursive language; instead, the narrator offers us a psychological portrait of Hester. This allows Gilmore to make a broader suggestion about the generic development of the psychological novel: “one could reasonably suggest that the invention of the American psychological novel was the corollary to an historical epoch when aroused Southerners and conservatives anathematized provocative speech” (31). However, Dimmesdale is both a religious leader and linguistically-gifted orator, which surfaces the problem Gilmore identifies in his own reading: “In every case [of his article], a charismatic speaker or linguistic rebellion has been omitted [...] Hawthorne’s politics of pacification always contain an unpacified dimension” (33). Gilmore concludes with a rhetorical question rather than analysis: “Are we to conclude, then, that when verbal fluency crosses into public space, it automatically mutates into verbal treachery?” (34).
Gilmore teaches at Brandeis University’s English department and has research interests that include the literature of the American Revolution and Puritanism. He has written on free speech in America in other essays (“The War on Words: Slavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature” and “Free Speech and the American Renaissance”) and has also written the influential article, “Hawthorne and the Making of the Middle Class,” so Hawthorne and the strains on freedom of speech during the antebellum period are not unfamiliar topics. While his historical analysis is interesting, I would recommend earlier scholarship that brings us to the point where Gilmore is writing; it may be more illuminating to view the development of the political “consensus” on Hawthorne, which Gilmore summarizes in the first paragraph of his essay.
--KevinS 16:17, 15 April 2012 (EDT)
Grossman, Jay. "A is for Abolition?: Race, Authorship, the Scarlet Letter." Textual Practice 7.1 (1993): 13-30. Google Books. Web. 15 Apr. 2012. http://books.google.com/books?id=jq331W-M9ZYC&pg=PA13&lpg=PA13&dq=A%27+is+for+Abolition?:+Race,+Authorship,+The+Scarlet+Letter&source=bl&ots=2e2eyhm0e4&sig=G4-Ld94FCeBgmCYnEx6u9XEU9A8&hl=en&sa=X&ei=OieLT4z0I-Hw0gHBtbXvCQ&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false
I found Jay Grossman’s article in an MLA search for “Nathaniel Hawthorne” and “race,” since, after looking at our growing list of articles about politics and race, I wanted to see how slavery is discussed in this antebellum novel. I am assuming Grossman’s relevancy to Hawthorne scholarship because Google Scholar and Google Books show that this article has been cited repeatedly and Leland S. Person dedicates a paragraph in his “Hawthorne, Hester, and the Ironies of Racial Mothering” to summarize Grossman’s thesis.
Grossman begins his article disagreeing with the influential American literary scholar F.O. Matthiessen, who asserts in his American Renaissance that The Scarlet Letter is detached from “‘contemporary material’” (13). Conversely, Grossman writes that Hawthorne’s text’s recurring image of the black man speaks to antebellum discussions of miscegenation. To prove his claim, he divides his essay into three sections: first exploring the text’s descriptions of the “black man,” then reviewing criticism that peculiarly overlooks this figure, and ending by speculating on the figure’s role. Firstly, however, Grossman writes of the historical context of miscegenation, explaining that both northern and southern whites held “a shared belief in the unbridled sexuality of African men and the vulnerability of white women, a shared panic when confronted with the possibilities of racial mixing” (15).
In the first and third parts of his argument, Grossman directs his attention to Pearl, writing that “if the central question out of which the novel grows is that of paternity, not even Hester, who presumably understands Pearl’s origins, can explain where Pearl comes from or what precisely she is” (15). Grossman suggests that Pearl’s origins derive from the “black man.” While scholars and editors of The Scarlet Letter unanimously view the “black man” as a metaphor for the devil, the text, written in a racialized society, allows for an obvious yet unexplored racial reading of the figure. Hester’s admission to Pearl that she met the black man in the forest is evidence, Grossman argues, for miscegeneation in the text, since it constantly figures Dimmesdale (whose name suggests darkness) as black—a point Grossman inadequately substantiates, aside from Dimmesdale’s black clothing. Pearl, the illegitimate child of miscegenation, can then only enjoy her inheritance from Dimmesdale in the emancipated England.
In the second part of his article, Grossman directly responds to essays on politics and race by Jonathan Arac and Jean Fagan Yellin as well as Matthiessen’s aforementioned work. Matthiessen asserts that authors must either “‘confront’” or “‘escape’” history, a paradigm that has shaped Arac’s and Yellin’s readings yet “has proven difficult to acknowledge and account for the presence of the black man in The Scarlet Letter” (19-20). Grossman heavily critiques Arac’s essay for participating “in precisely the system it set out to uncover – the workings of ‘the American ideology’. The black man must remain invisible when viewed from within the discourses of possessive individualism that underwrite the essay’s explication of indeterminacy – what Arac telling calls ‘Hawthorne’s own authorial meaning’” (23). Grossman is less critical of Yellin, but claims that the canonicity of Hawthorne’s work disables her to evaluate or even recognize the presence of the black man.
As I previously wrote, Grossman’s historical reading of the black man and the anxieties of miscegenation fails to adequately support some of its claims. His portrayal of Dimmesdale as the “black man” is insufficiently described, and he does not convincingly show why this figure of the black man must be viewed literally rather than, as most scholars seem to agree, as the Devil (which better explains the witchcraft in the novel and Hester’s admission to Mistress Hibbins that “Had they taken [Pearl] from me, I would willingly have gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black Man’s book too, and that with mine own blood!”) (Hawthorne 79).
Grossman is an associate professer at Northwestern University, where he teaches eighteenth- and nineteenth-century American literature and culture, “especially Emerson and Whitman, the history of the book, and the history of sexuality”. Although he studies Hawthorne’s time period, his scholarly interests do not match this article. I could hypothesize that what may have led him to Hawthorne is F.O. Matthiessen’s assertion about The Scarlet Letter and history, since Grossman has written several articles and a forthcoming biography of the literary critic and political activist. Although his article raises the issue of miscegenation and both northern and southern fears of the emancipated slave, I would not strongly recommend it to the class because I found its central argument largely unconvincing.
--KevinS 16:00, 15 April 2012 (EDT)
Ryan, Michael. ""The Puritans of Today": The Anti-Whig Argument of The Scarlet Letter." Canadian Review of American Studies 38.2 (2008): 201-225. Project MUSE. Web. 13 Apr. 2012. http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/canadian_review_of_american_studies/v038/38.2.ryan.html.
I saw this article in a recommended for further reading section of a Hawthorne website, and it came up in a basic search for "The Scarlet Letter" on Project MUSE.
This article outlines the ideals of the Whig party and the Democratic party in the mid 19th century and then tries to show how the conflicting moral ideologies of both parties come to play in The Scarlet Letter. The Whig agenda, Ryan argues, was to subjugate the populace into a moral, religious communitiy that is highly stratified and which privileges the learned and moral over the common, depraved man. Democratic ideology, on the other hand, stressed, well, democracy, and the destigmatization of "natural" behaviors. Ryan then goes on to explain that the Puritan community in The Scarlet Letter perfectly embodies these Whig ideologies, (side-note: the Whigs themselves endorsed a connection to Puritanism as proto-Whig ideology) whereas Hester, Pearl and Dimmesdale are supposed to represent morality that springs from nature rather than stricture, and since they are the positively portrayed protagonists, it aligns with what we know about Hawthorne, who was a Democrat in an ardently Whig town.
As for research conversation, this article does reference many historical analyses of Whig, Puritan and Democratic ideology, but is somewhat lacking in the Hawthorne studies department, and it SHOWS. I found his analysis of the moral questions which Hester, Dimmesdale, Pearl, and the Puritans embody to be very simplistic and shaped to fit his own beliefs. Personally, I think if he had done a little more reading into Scarlet Letter research, he could have adapted his theory to a more nuanced picture of the three and created a much richer article.
I would not recommend this as, again, it is weak in the research conversation on the Scarlet Letter half of his argument, and as we are dedicating this page to articles on the book, not the history, I'd say our energies are better expended reading articles more dedicated to research conversations.
--Ecerta 23:32, 13 April 2012 (EDT)
Thomas, Brook. "Citizen Hester: The Scarlet Letter as Civic Myth. American Literary History 13.2 (2001): 181-211.
I discovered Brook Thomas’s article the old fashioned way: through an MLA search. JSTOR was nice enough to provide me with the text.
Thomas’s article offers another historical view into The Scarlet Letter, this time through the notion of citizenship. In some ways, the article reminded me of Lauren Berlant’s chapter in that it chose an intellectual framework (for Berlant, law; for Thomas, citizenship) and then proceeded at once to heavily historicize and theorize that framework in a way that brings out tensions in the book. The idea of citizenship—perhaps even more than law—needs to be historicized because, as Thomas notes, the idea of citizenship was not only evolving between 1642 and 1850, but Puritan history was being used (perhaps manipulated) to bring about that evolution. So by tracking citizenship—and all of its penumbras (i.e. personal freedom, inalienable rights, privacy)—Thomas argues that Hawthorne is critiquing the teleological pre-history of the American republic. And interestingly, like Bercovitch, he concludes that Hawthorne’s argument (if the book can be said to have one) is moderate: “If The Scarlet Letter suggests that political institutions alone cannot make a democracy, its emphasis on good citizen-ship in the civil as well as in the civic sphere is by no means a solution to all of the country's problems” (201). This political open-endedness (or “ambiguity") that so many critics come across seems like the central problem of The Scarlet Letter (from my limited readings).
Thomas’s article engages with three different types of discourses: First, and most obviously, is other literary Hawthorne criticism—and he does so largely to critique the lacuna he sees regarding questions of citizenship. Second, he does cool stuff with primary source material, like a discussion of a 19th Century American history text and, very interestingly, a lecture by Whig lawyer entitled “The Importance of Illustrating New England History by a Series of Romances Like the Waverley Novels." Lastly, Thomas engages with contemporary theorists of society: Althusser, Habermas. While not cited heavily, they provide a framework and vocabulary for the analysis that Thomas makes.
Professor Thomas teaches at UC Irvine and has published extensively on law and literature (mostly in the American 19th century)—so this fits nicely into his overall body of work. I would recommend this article, especially if we are also going to read Berlant or Korobkin.
--AndrewFerris 17:35, 16 April 2012 (EDT)