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  • 2 Hawthorne
  • Thomas R. Mitchell

It was a banner year for new readings of The Marble Faun and for studies of "the School of Hawthorne," but otherwise a rather thin year for Hawthorne scholarship. Thanks to Roman Holidays: American Artists and Writers in Nineteenth-Century Italy (Iowa), a fine collection of essays edited by Robert K. Martin and Leland S. Person, we have six new and provocative essays on The Marble Faun, a number equal to the total on the other three romances combined. Though the quantity of Hawthorne studies may be small, the shadow of Hawthorne looms large. As contemporary foil for Margaret Fuller and Nikolai Gogol or as progenitor to Henry James, William Dean Howells, John Updike, Philip Roth, and Samuel Delaney, he is an inescapable interpretive presence. The next few years promise to be more fruitful: Brenda Wineapple's much anticipated new biography is due out in fall 2003, and the bicentennial of Hawthorne's birth in 2004 will be celebrated with special conferences and publications.

i General

Indicative of the temporary lull in Hawthorne studies, the Nathaniel Hawthorne Review combined its spring and fall 2002 issues because of a dearth of publication-ready manuscripts. Making the most of the situation, however, the editors undertook an impressive renovation in the journal's appearance. More substantial and professional in binding and general appearance, NHR will return to two issues in 2003, and will mark the bicentennial with a special single-issue publication of ten solicited essays from major Hawthorne scholars. A highlight for 2002 is Richard M. Clark's "Current Bibliography" (28: 69–103). Ostensibly covering 2001 but also picking up some items from 2000 and some as recent as [End Page 25] spring 2002, Clark casts a wide net, listing even dissertations which treat Hawthorne only in passing. He is generous in his thorough, balanced annotations of books and essays.

The single book-length study published during the year is James N. Mancall's "Thoughts Painfully Intense": Hawthorne and the Invalid Author (Routledge). Part of Routledge's Outstanding Dissertations series, Mancall's book links Hawthorne's famously ambivalent attitudes toward himself as a writer to his exposure to contemporary medical treatises which linked the sedentary, introspective life of writers and scholars to both effeminacy and disease. Mancall traces the permutations of Hawthorne's ambivalency through Fanshawe, selected tales ("The Storyteller," the Oberon tales, and "Rappaccini's Daughter"), The Scarlet Letter, The Blithedale Romance, The Marble Faun, and the unfinished manuscripts of his final years. In Fanshawe Hawthorne seeks to rehabilitate the image of authorship by portraying the author as an "intellectual hero." After the failure of Fanshawe his portraits of authors in his tales are "more confused and angry." With "The Custom-House" and The Scarlet Letter, however, he adopts the authorial persona of the "self-effacing" but "vengeful spirit" and reaches "the peak of his confidence and bravado in his contest with contemporary medical and pseudo-medical discourse"; yet he registers his lingering doubts in his depiction of the self-destruction of the "sadistic physician and romancer," Roger Chillingworth. Mancall reads The Blithedale Romance as the critique by the now successful and financially stable Hawthorne of his earlier, less successful authorial persona, Miles Coverdale. The invalid male author character disappears in The Marble Faun, Mancall claims, but is replaced by the invalid female artist, Miriam, whose personal woes may be attributable to the physical and emotional consequences awaiting women who engage in excessively intellectual or imaginative life. Finally, Mancall detects in the unfinished manuscripts of Hawthorne's final years and in the increasingly pessimistic and ill Hawthorne a "lurking suspicion that the physicians and reformers may have been right after all." Mancall's reading of "Rappaccini's Daughter" within the context of the highly contentious contemporary competition between medical theorists contains perhaps his most interesting and useful insights. Too often, however, he pushes his thesis too hard, most egregiously when he seems to attribute Dimmesdale's terminal moral and physical decline to the deleterious effects not of a self-loathing born of guilt and cowardice but of a life spent in solitary study. [End Page 26]

Unlike other essays in Roman Holidays Susan M. Griffin's...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 25-38
Launched on MUSE
2004-06-24
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2023
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