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Lectures and Articles Related to Hawthorne and Good and Evil

Lectures and Articles Related to Melville and Hawthorne

Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861
Photograph of Herman Melville, 1861 (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)

Dr. Richard Millington, Smith College: "The Meanings of Hawthorne's Women," lecture delivered at The House of the Seven Gables Historic Site on September 8, 2000.

Professor Millington reviews a number of scholarly studies of Hawthorne and the feminine elements of both the form and content of his writing. He notes that Hawthorne, a foe of conventional marketplace masculinity and apparent advocate for the relatively liberated alternative ways of living of his female characters, paradoxically endorsed stereotypical gender roles for women in his personal life. He also shows ways that Hawthorne presents himself as female in his writing, in some respects a standard Victorian approach but in other ways a gender-bending element with understandable appeal to the gay sensibility of Herman Melville.

The Millington lecture connects clearly with literary links between Hawthorne and Melville as seen in the male-as-female reference in the twenty-sixth chapter of Hawthorne's The Blithedale Romance. There Hawthorne-like narrator Coverdale identifies himself with passionate female Zenobia in their love-hate relationships with Melville-like Hollingsworth: "It suits me not to explain what was the analogy that I saw, or imagined, between Zenobia's situation and mine; nor, I believe, will the reader detect this one secret, hidden beneath many a revelation which perhaps concerned me less." While no one would argue a perfectly one-to-one relationship between Hawthorne and Coverdale, it is significant that the author's male narrator in this case explicitly refers to his position with Hollingsworth in its resemblance to that of the female character Zenobia. Hawthorne's character thus makes the cross-gender identification that Millington shows Hawthorne himself made, and the novel's earlier suggestions of Coverdale's ambiguous sexuality are thus substantially reinforced. Just as Hawthorne, moreover, did not promote improved conditions for Victorian women, Coverdale takes no effective steps to aid the female character with whom he identifies and who is ultimately destroyed by her hopeless love. The blending of Coverdale and Zenobia in their relationships with Hollingsworth in The Blithedale Romance provides an instructive example of Millington's points about Hawthorne's use of females and femininity in his writing. Both the novel and the lecture suggest gender-related elements contributed to the qualities of Hawthorne's work that captivated Melville.

Dr. David B. Kesterson, University of North Texas, "Hawthorne and Melville," lecture presented at the Phillips Library, Salem, Massachusetts, 23 September 2000

Professor Kesterson examines the differences and similarities in Hawthorne's and Melville's backgrounds, the development of their 1850-1851 friendship in the Berkshires, and evidence for the lasting impact they had upon each other's works.

Dr. Leland S. Person, University of Cincinnati, "The Scarlet Reader: Newton Arvin on Hawthorne and Melville," paper delivered at Nathaniel Hawthorne Society Summer Meeting, Northampton, Massachusetts, June 21-23, 2002.

The expression "The Scarlet Reader" in the title of Leland Person's lecture alludes to Barry Werth's 2001 book The Scarlet Professor: Newton Arvin - A Literary Life Shattered by Scandal. Werth explores the life and work of Newton Arvin, admired literary scholar from Smith College; and Person focuses on Arvin's contribution to our understanding of Hawthorne and Melville. While numerous writers have investigated the sexual tension between Hawthorne and Melville, no one has done so with more personal identification than Arvin who, as partner of author Truman Capote for a time, clearly knew a thing or two about same sex relationships. As a victim of Cold War era homophobia, moreover, Arvin, as well as his scholarship, eventually came to be cruelly dismissed and discredited. In a more enlightened time, Person demonstrates that Arvin's voice remains vital, both for his literary insight and the unique perspective resulting from his sexuality and the persecution he suffered for it.

Dr. John W. Stuart, Manchester-Essex Regional High School, The Hawthorne-Melville Relationship, a paper presented at the Annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, Indianapolis, IN, Friday, 19 November 2004.

Dr. John W. Stuart, Manchester-Essex Regional High School, Echoes of Hawthorne in Melville's Billy Budd: an essay prepared for the Hawthorne in Salem Website, November 2003

Melville's novelette Billy Budd connects with Hawthorne in several respects: I.) an allusion to Hawthorne's short story "The Birthmark"; II.) tensions of same sex relationships that mirror situations in both the real lives and fictional narratives of Hawthorne and Melville; and III.) a preoccupation with the nature of evil, an ongoing subject of fascination for both authors.

Dr. James Hewitson, "Mechanization and Nationalism in 'Chiefly about War Matters,'" a paper delivered at the Modern Language Association Conference in San Diego, CA, December 2003.

In this paper Dr. Hewitson explores elements in Hawthorne's "Chiefly About War Matters" that "can be understood as reiterating and expanding upon his earlier depictions of encroaching mechanization within American culture." In addition, Dr. Hewitson argues that “'War Matters' can be seen as anticipating later similar treatments of issues of mechanization and its potential for profound subjective and social realignments, such as Herman Melville’s Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War, Mark Twain’s Connecticut Yankee in Kng Arthur’s Court and Henry Adams’ Education of Henry Adams.

Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/12472/

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