Week 4 Discussion Guide: Tuesday--The Hawthorne Project
When you have read the story carefully, reread it to take notes on the major characters and the major stages in which the plot unfolds. By now, you will be familiar with Hawthorne's typical stylistic device of funneling our evidence for what really happens in the story through unreliable sources of information. What factors affected Robin's ability to see and to understand what he saw? What affects Giovanni's ability to see and to understand what he sees, and how has Hawthorne improved his ability to connect these narrative devices with the issues at the heart of the story? Note that he is not merely repeating himself. His powers of invention and his complexity of narration have grown enormously since the early day's of Robin's wandering through the New England night. Do you see evidence that Hawthorne is beginning to consider himself a serious artist and to claim the right to associate his works with those by other great artists? This is not an uncommon strategy for authors working in a culture which has not previously been taken seriously for its art. To Hawthorne, when he looked for literary models, the greatest novelists were in France and England. About five centuries before him, Chaucer found himself in the same situation in Medieval England, and he sought inspiration and models for his art in works by French and Italian poets. Do modern American writers still draw upon models and inspiration from other cultures? If they do so, does that make them "unoriginal," or rather "cosmopolitan"?
If you believe you know the story well, you might be interested in this page discussing literary allusion in the story. In class, we will continue to seek a pattern or pattern-breaking that makes the texts meaningful. Are you baffled by Hawthorne's French titles in the preface, or by the teasing Italian names? Perhaps an online dictionary would help.
If we have time, we also will look at these web pages about ways to detect patterns of evidence that are called "stylistic," and about the "best reader" concept as it applies to a literary analysis paper.
Click here for a short discussion of "allegory" vs. fictional realism in character construction. This is an issue Hawthorne became quite sensitive to in the prime of his career, when "literary realism" and "literary naturalism" were emerging as dominant fictional styles, and any hint of allegory came to seem extremely old fashioned.