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Revjews413 by difficulty in the early and late essays. When Freccerò sets about explaining Dante's "firm foot" in 1959, he suggests that our difficulty is primarily a consequence of historical distance and poetic reticence. We find Dante's poetry difficultbecause we are not sufficiendy versed in the traditions evoked by Dante. Yet when Freccerò discusses Manfred's scar or Ugolino's apparent cannibalism in the late 1970s and early 1980s, difficulty appears as an essential rather than accidental attribute of the text. Dante's poem invites misreading because error and self-deception play a central role within die reader's interpretivejourney; there can be no conversion, no turning toward truth, without an original error. Thus while Freccerò remains committed to die methodological assumption diat diere is a single correct reading of the Comedy's problematic passages, he is increasingly able to incorporate the danger of misreading within the readings that he proposes. The evolution apparent in Freccero's work renders the Poetics of Conversion an especially valuable collection. For the various shifts recorded in these essaysshifts from typology to metapoetics, from dense erudition to theoretical speculation —are in many respects exemplary of those displayed by the entire field of American Dante studies. Stanford UniversttyJohn Kleiner Hypocrisy and Self-Deception in Hawthorne's Fiction, by Kenneth Marc Harris; vi & 160 pp. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1988, $27.50. It is refreshing to discover a work which gives full weight to the fact that introspection, for the Puritans, was not undertaken for its own sake. Puritan soul-searching, ever alert for the symbolic moment, was undertaken in order to discover whether or not one was saved. The answer to diis was unknowable, but data could be collected in the form of journals and character could be observed in order to assess likely candidates for the visible church. By these means the private could become public. It was the possibility of discrepancy between the private and the public self, the possibility of being self-deceived about one's own inner state, however, which gave rise to an obsession with hypocrisy in Puritan thought. In Hypocrisyand Self-Deception in Hawthorne's Fiction Harris examines some of the theological approaches developed by Puritan thinkers to deal with the problem of impostors and the various criteria established . He goes on to demonstrate that many of the moral and psychological dilemmas of Hawthorne's fictions correspond with the predicament of the selfdeceivinghypocrite ofPuritan origins. Further, Harris is able to showanintricate 414PHrLOSOPHY and Literature connection between Hawthorne's interest in hypocrisy and self-deception, and his development as an artist. Harris begins with a representative selection oftales and sketches. Hawthorne, it seems, like Dickinson, liked "a look ofagony," for whatin life may be concealed from others, and even from ourselves, in death is laid open and fixed forever. In "Chippings with a Chisel" Hawthorne is discovered questioning the "propriety of uncovering the hidden self or of erecting monuments at all," but nevertheless Harris is able to identify two distinct approaches to hypocrisy and self-deception in Hawthorne's shorter fiction. One approach corresponds roughly to a moral approach, exploiting the inner and outer metaphor, and suggests that our good and true selves lie widiin: the other approach "in a sense tends to subvert the first approach by raising the ontological question of what is real and what is not" (p. 21). It is these methods or approaches which lead direcdy to Harris's exploration of the theme of hypocrisy in The Scarlet Letter. In the world of that novel, hypocrisy is unrelieved by the presence of a "gende boy" who might serve to remind us that sincerity is still possible, and Harris suggests that in this novel Hawthorne has resigned himselfto the persistence , at least, of hypocrisy in the human condition. Hester Prynne, Chillingworth , Dimmesdale are all implicated in hypocrisy, and Dimmesdale—a "hypocrite saint"—is in particular subjected to an acute and interesting interpretation. In his chapter on Dimmesdale, Harris demonstrates that Dimmesdale's arguments are hardly new. He makes a useful connection between Dimmesdale's arguments and the farewell sermon of 1730 preached by Jonathan Edwards to successfully place Dimmesdale within the Puritan sphere of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 413-414
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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