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Along the Wayside.



Hawthorne and the Digital Humanities--Organized by the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society: Chair: Christopher Glen Diller. Berry College

1. "'Nor less devoted to the affairs of the nation': Using Word Vectors to Model Hawthorne's Concept of the National," Erik Fredner, Stanford University

While work on Hawthorne often focuses on the literary culture of Massachusetts in the mid-nineteenth century, that scale of analysis underemphasizes the significance of the nation in the literature of the antebellum period. Quantitative textual analysis enables us to see how Hawthorne and his peers' literary production understands the relationship between state and United States, the fraught relation between individuals and the nation in which they live, and the co-constitution of the products of a national literary culture and the United States as a political entity.

Word vectors are one effective approach to aggregating and modeling these abstract relationships. As Ryan Heuser's work has shown, we can reliably compare corpora of different sizes and compositions synchronically using the technique of random sampling with replacement. In this project, I analyze the vector spaces of three different corpora in order to understand the different relationships their texts posit between the individual, the state, and the nation. The first is a corpus of Hawthorne's prose, the second is a corpus of his peers' prose, and the third is Gale's massive corpus of American fiction. By comparing and contrasting these vector spaces, we can see which of Hawthorne's ideas about the nation are distinctive to him alone, which accord with those of his peer group, and which align with the broadest available representation of the nineteenth-century American fictional marketplace.

2. "Actor-Network Theory and the Hawthorne Digital Archive," Gale Temple, University of Alabama at Birmingham

I have become fascinated by how much more striking passages from Hawthorne's novels can seem when excerpted versus when they're processed in the context of his larger works. Perhaps it has something to do with the reading process--novel reading is usually a longer, more leisurely endeavor while (as scholars anyway) we typically excerpt only the most noteworthy material--but for me at any rate, this difference in Hawthorne is so pronounced that I attune myself to it as I read, often considering how specific passages resonate in the absence of the narrative that surrounds them.

A similar phenomenon might be said to apply to the study of digitized artifacts. Of course, any artifact, relic, museum piece, etc., is an excerpt taken from a broader context, but in isolation, such "things" can signify powerfully, particularly when they are benighted as "originals," or in the case of digitized images, as precise reproductions of the "thing itself." For this paper, I'll argue that attuning ourselves to "digitized Hawthorne" (specifically, for this paper, the New York Public Library's digitized Hawthorne collection) helps us to better understand, not just the context of Hawthorne's life and writings, but also the phenomenon whereby passages, images, and even inanimate objects from Hawthorne's novels can leap from the background of the work and take on lives of their own.

Hawthorne's digital archive simultaneously coaxes and vexes interpretation. It offers pieces to what is apparently a larger puzzle, but it also indexes just how much is ultimately missing from a plenary knowledge of, say, Hawthorne's life, or his perspective on the Civil War. We might think of the various entries in the Hawthorne archive as what Latour calls "quasi-objects, quasi-subjects." seemingly inanimate components of the familiar stage upon which animate humans act but that nevertheless form their own independent, potentially unruly, and often confounding agentive networks. Viewing Hawthorne's digital archive, or interpreting Hawthorne's more striking passages, through the lens of actor-network theory is, I think, entirely consistent with what Hawthorne famously refers to as the task of the "romancer," which is to defamiliarize the habituated world, encouraging readers to view it as if refracted through a "marvelous" lens or in the "strangeness and remoteness" of the moonlight. In other words, it entails relinquishing the critical desire to totalize while recognizing the possibility for potentially limitless alternative networks of agency and signification.

3. "The Digital Faun." Evander Price, Harvard University

It has been years since anyone has produced an annotated scholarly edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Th.e Marble Faun, or The Romance of Monte Bern (1860), an oft-overlooked masterpiece of American Renaissance literature. Hawthorne himself considered it his best work, going so far as to claim: "If I have written anything well, it should be this romance; for I have never thought or felt more deeply, or taken more pains" (Bruno Latour. We Have NeverBeen Modern. Harvard UP, p. 89). I propose The Digital Faun, an online, hypertext edition of The Marble Faun for the twentieth-first century, one worthy of Hawthorne's own assessment of his most popular novel.

The Digital Faun would have multiple layers of annotation, and it would be legible on a phone or tablet. At the most basic level, it would provide the plain text. A reader could easily toggle up, addinga layer of explanatory information, ora second layerof in-depth annotation including links to pictures, analogous images or artworks, and museum collections. A mapping widget, such as Story Maps ( or Google Maps, would provide interactive walking guides of The Marble Faun that -would superimpose the palimpsests of pagan, imperial. Christian, nineteenth, and twenty-first-century Rome. A reader could add his or her own annotations or insert his or her own photos. The Digital Faun could employ Google Lens so that a reader could photograph objects described in The Marble Faun to automatically call up information about the object. A reader could even participate within a community of Faunfans (faunatics?) who reenact scenes and selfie themselves into the digital edition, as nineteenth-century readers did with the Tauchnitz edition. For the academic reader, there would be a complement of secondary sources and materials. For the art historical reader, Hawthorne's nineteenth-century misattributions would be updated with the past hundred and fifty years of scholarship. For the teacher, the Digital Faun would include suggested syllabi or methods for integrating The Digital Faun into courses interested in Rome, American literature, or art history. For the tourist reader, Hawthorne himself comes alive as a digital tour guide.

1 believe it is high time to compile a modern, digital, scholarly edition of The Marble Faun--a Tauchnitz for the twenty-first century. Let's work together to breathe life back into The Marble Faun.

Past Conferences


Hawthorne and Architecture--Organized by the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society; Chair: Nancy Sweet. California State University, Sacramento

1. "Wildness and the Inherited Garden in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables," Allison Siehnel, SUNY Buffalo State College

Hawthorne's architectural interests are not limited to the built frames he describes in prefaces such as "The Old Manse" and "The Custom House," or in The House of the Seven Gables. These texts also describe relationships between built and unbuilt environments more broadly, including those of surrounding landscapes created through practices similar to what Frederick Law Olmsted, among others, term "landscape architecture." Because of its representation of the relationship between architecture and history, The House of the. Seven Gables invites closer inspection of other built environs--the garden--that can be viewed as part of the house's architecture. This paper examines the ancestral garden where Alice's rare white roses, and her family's legacy, haunt the Pyncheons and readers of this story of generational deception and rivalry, discussing it alongside actions set in the unbuilt natural spaces in The Scarlett Letter and "The Old Manse."

While the novel has been read as investigating the weight of history, the garden introduces Hawthorne's theory of wild space. By drawing connections between Hawthorne's writing and theories of landscape, this paper argues that Seven Gables describes a transition into ideas of garden spaces as we understand them today. Wild gardens--as well as wild characters that Christopher Castiglia calls "marvelous"--offer spaces to imagine futures open to unthought differences from an unjust past. As landscaping becomes more common during his lifetime, especially after the creation of Central Park, Hawthorne shows gardens as liminal spaces capable of revealing cultural history as well as wild possibility.

2. "Carpenter Gothic in Hawthorne's 'My Kinsman, Major Molineux,'" Brad Bannon, University of Tennessee

In Hawthorne's early tale "My Kinsman. Major Molineux" (183a), a young man named Robin sits on the steps of a church and looks across the street to see "a large, square mansion, distinguished from its neighbors by a balcony, which rested on tall pillars, and by an elaborate Gothic window, communicating therewith." Moments later, following Robin's vision of the family hearth from which he is absent and excluded, "he could have sworn that a visage, one which he seemed to remember, yet could not absolutely name as his kinsman's, was lookingtowards him from the Gothic window." And finally, just after Major Molineux is paraded by in "tar-and-feathery dignity." Robin hears the familiar "sepulchral hems" of the old man he had encountered earlier in the tale and looks across to see him standingon the balcony "[i]n front of the Gothic window... support [ ing] himself on his polished can in a fit of convulsive merriment."

Mentioned three times in the tale, the Gothic window seems to represent the darkness and voyeuristic sadism of the townspeople as they observe Robin's reaction to his kinsman's fate and then mock him. A Carpenter Gothic window would not have appeared on a house in New England during the time in which the story takes place, however. In fact, this architectural style did not become popular until Hawthorne's own time. Hawthorne's anachronistic insertion of this detail thus reveals his intent to read the mid-eighteenth century in the New England colonies in light of the literary and architectural Gothicism that had crossed the Atlantic almost a century later. In this way, the window serves as a kind of portal that traces the continuing development of a distinct American Gothic from the time of the Puritans to the burgeoning resistance to British rule that would culminate in the American Revolution, rather than in the Gothic romances penned by Britons in the late eighteenth century. As historian Alan Taylor puts it, "The fiends of fire and darkness were busy during the revolution" (2). In Hawthorne's story, the use of this architectural style in the form of a single window bespeaks this busyness, and though it does so in a manner that is intended to be almost impenetrable, in its first appearance the Gothic window is said to be "communicating therewith." But what does an anachronistic Carpenter Gothic window communicate? And to whom? In this paper. I will explore these questions as I shed further light on the significance of Hawthorne's use of this architectural style in "My Kinsman. Major Molineux."

3. "In a high and gloomy chamber of an old edifice': Renaissance Architecture from Narrative Framework to Transcultural Function in Hawthorne's Fiction," Francesca Razzi, "DAnnunzio" University of Chieti-Pescara

This paper attempts a transcultural reading of Hawthorne's use of Renaissance architecture by focusing on its function as a specimen of "usable past" in Hawthorne's fiction. Renaissance architecture represents a quite marginal aspect of Hawthorne's engagement with visual culture, since his fiction dealing with the artistic theme mainly addresses the social role of the artist (as through the characters of Owen Warland in "The Artist of the Beautiful" and Oberon in "The Devil in Manuscript") or is centered on vivid portraits of artistic objects (as in The House of the Seven Gables, "The Prophetic Pictures," and "A Virtuoso's Collection").

Yet, Hawthorne's depiction of Renaissance architecture significantly marks the Italian setting of two of his canonical works: the tale "Rappaccini's Daughter" (1844,) and the novel The Marble Faun (1860). Rather than a mere formal and textual object, the Renaissance aesthetics featuring the architecture of Rappaccini's secluded garden and Miriam's house in Rome may be read as an intertextual element showing Hawthorne's peculiar use of the Italian Renaissance as a cultural model. Indeed, as the issues of tradition and influence are central to Hawthorne's writing, their use is functional to the process of innovation of the American literary art in the first half of the nineteenth century. On a broader, contextual level, Hawthorne's "translation" of Renaissance visual art into American literary works testifies to the paradigmatic role of the Italian Renaissance culture in shaping the literary field in the United States during the antebellum era.

Teaching Hawthorne--Organized by the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society: Chair: Charles Baraw. Southern Connecticut State University

1. "Storytelling as Social Exchange: Teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales to Community College Students," Rachel Boccio, LaGuardia Community College

Undergraduates in today's community colleges (not unlike sludents in four-year intuitions) struggle to either comprehend or engage meaningfully with many canonical nineteenth-century writers, Nathaniel Hawthorne being no exception. For several years, I've taught selections from Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales ("Wakefield." "The Minister's Black Veil," " Edward Randolph's Portrait," and "The Wedding Knell") as part of a broader exploration of how stories get told and circulate within specific cultures. Today's media landscape offers a wide array of narrative experience through which students can begin to think critically about the social and technological production of a story: most students have captured posts, images, and video to create slideshow-like "stories" on Instagram and Snapchat. A smaller but still significant group have used story apps (like the popular NPR "Story Corps") or are frequent listeners of the countless array of podcast "serials" and other story-driven digital content.

This paper will argue a particular methodological approach to teaching Hawthorne's fiction while also providing examples of classroom activities and assignments that have, in my experience, helped many community college students connect nineteenth-century literary and cultural practices to twenty-first-century ones. As acknowledged "twice-told tales," Hawthorne's stories draw attention to the nature of storytelling and to the intertextual imagination, concerns that my students come to see as relevant and applicable to their own social lives. "Wakefield." a tale very much about the way in which stories give rise, through the transformative power of the teller, to countless other texts, tales, and truths, is our opening--a kind of touchstone text, through which students accept the invitation to, in the narrator's words, "do [their] own meditations" on the "sort of man" that Wakefield is. In the process of reimagining and recreating Hawthorne's stories (often using modern digital tools), students come to know, interpret, and experiment with story elements (character, setting, temporality, voice, style) and with real and fictional nineteenth-century people.

2. "Unfolding Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall and Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Birthmark,'" Christina Katopodis. Graduate Center, CUNY

Fold/Unfold is a discussion activity I've developed to help students learn how to close read and how to be effective listeners and contributors in class discussion. The exercise is a variation of Think-Pair-Share that works particularly well with one of Hawthorne's short stories. Each student receives a sheet of paper with two quotations from "The Birthmark." I fold the paper so students can read only one of the two quotations. Students first analyze one quotation with a partner, then they unfold their papers and discuss the two quotations together in small groups. Finally, groups report back to the class and share what was discussed. Fold/Unfold works at all levels, from first-year composition to American literature courses for majors. This interactive activity empowers students by giving them autonomy even as it requires them to practice close reading skills. Everyone participates. The activity guides students in slow and thorough analysis to warm up at the beginning of class, and it leaves plenty of time for a class-wide discussion. In this paper presentation, 1 will introduce the audience to my active learning pedagogy (2 min.), guide the audience in a condensed version of this interactive activity (6-8 min.), and talk about how I incorporate "The Birthmark" into my syllabus (5 min.). Taking a gender studies approach to nineteenth-century American literature. I always teach Fern and Hawthorne together because they complement and challenge one another in productive ways that demand students to think critically about gender norms and biases in the period.

3. "'Young Goodman Brown' in the Cog/Psy/Lit Classroom," Scott Harshbarger. Hofstra University

In this presentation, I recount and discuss my experience with teaching "Young Goodman Brown" in a course titled Cognitive Science, Psychology, and Literature: Narrative Selves. This course draws on current psychological science and the intuitions of masters of the short story in orderto considerhow the developing self copes, or fails to cope, with the various challenges posed across the life span. Read in the early-middle part of the course, "Young Goodman Brown" invites students to imagine what happens when vulnerabilities associated with perception, memory, and imagination are targeted to induce the appearance of a world dedicated to pure evil.

To understand the narrative techniques Hawthorne uses to transport the reader into YGB's narrative world, the class draws on recent work by cognitive scientists on figures of speech, in particular metaphor (Lakoff, 1995), irony (Kumon-Nakamura, et al., 1995). and allegorisis (Gibbs, 1994), the latter term representing the primary way "in which we continually seek to connect, in diverse ways, the immediate here and now with more abstract, enduring symbolic themes."

I conclude my presentation with discussion of a paper written for the class, in which the student uses such cognitive tools and concepts to argue that Brown, in an effort to preserve a cohesive self-narrative, falls prey to confabulation, projection, and other cognitive illusions and delusions.

Brown's struggle to maintain a faith in humanity in a world dedicated to cynically exploiting his cognitive vulnerabilities is something many of today's students can relate to, and, through a cognitive-historical reading of "Young Goodman Brown," think critically about.

If you have any news relating to the study of Hawthorne and his work, or about upcoming Hawthorne events, please let us know for future "Along the Wayside" columns. Contact James Hewitson at

doi: 10.5325/nathhawtrevi.45.2.0217
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Publication:Nathaniel Hawthorne Review
Date:Sep 22, 2019
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