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MANFRED MACKENZIE Colonization and Decolonization in The Blithedale Romance In what follows I offer a reading of Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance undera postcolonial perspective. Before beginning, however, I should like to situate my reading critically, and sketch out a certain diificultyentailed by it, namely that of being caught between two apparently conflicting discourses: the established and familiar ones we designate as 'American Studies'i and the novel, trialling one that now accompanies the prodigious body of writing in English outside the AnglO-American sphere, and that comprises what has corne to be called 'post-colonial study.' Let me consider first a representative American Studies reading of Hawthorne. One recent such reading that comes to mind is Lauren Berlant's The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life (1991). Centring on The Scarlet Letter, and arguing that Hawthorne's is at bottom a nationalist imagination, this book rests on a notion of 'the National Symbolic,' In modern societies, says Berlant, we are each born into 'the order of discursive practices whose reign within a national space produces, and also refers to, the "law" in which the accident of birth within a geographic/political boundary transforms individuals into subjects of a collectively-held history' (20). Moreover, by passing through inscription in this National Symbolic, the historical subject reaches a further plane of identity, a utopian 'Imaginary/ a realm of ideality and wholeness wherein the individual is reconstituted as a collective subject or citizen (24). Generally, of course, the sense of national identity arises from within local or indigenous cultures. In the American case, however, Jpolitical facticity as a nation preceded the development of a shared culture among the citizens themselves' (29). America nationalizes the idea of utopia: 'America has from the beginning appropriated the aura of the neutral territory, the world beyond political dissensus, for its own political legitimation' (32). As for the local, this, whether ready or not, it 'sutures' (25) to itself. Indeed, Hawthorne consistently writes on both sides of a ~nowhere' /'local' split. On the one hand, for instance, his prefaces 'pro- -vide, for the nation, the very semiotic that will allow citizens to experience America in a new form of utopian ideality' (33). On the other hand, he is intensely committed to those very micro-formations that the National Symbolic both requisitions for its own legitimation and transcends UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 62, NUMBER 4, SUMMER 1993 THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE 505 or 'forgets.' 'In the vast extent of our country/ he writes in his late essay 'Chiefly About War Matters,' 'too vast by far to be taken into one small human heart, - we inevitably limit to our own State, or, at farthest, to our own section, that sentiment of physical love for the soil which renders an Englishman, for example, so intensely sensitive to the dignity and wellbeing pf his little island, that one hostile foot, treading anywhere upon it, would make a bruise on each individual breast' (205). How to resolve this cultural and political dilemma? As Berlant sees it, Hawthorne keeps faith both with the 'nowhere' of official nationness; and with the local - the everyday, political United States - within a certain 'critical nationalism' (58). While acknowledging the idea of 'America,' she argues, he simultaneously has recourse to a series of tactical resistances to it. In The Scarlet Letter in particular, he at once represents a 'protoNational Symbolic' (71), the Puritan 'paradise of the law,' and a 'counterNational Symbolic' (34) - 'counter-memory' (6, 95, 162), or 'madness' (Foucault's Madness and Civilization?): 'In response to the ideal intelligibility of the national-utopia, he constantly makes illegible the American landscape; in response to the national elevation of the woman as the privileged source and future of culture, he substitutes her denigration and her negation, erasure, or absence; in response to the call to make citizens at home in their culture he posits the ideal citizen as tourist' (34). It will be seen that The Anatomy of National Fantasy is at once a nationalist reading of Hawthorne's nationalist imagination, and a poststructuralist one, one that we might characterize briefly as refusing to take the Other for the Same. Interestingly for an American book on...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 504-521
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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