Gingerbread men and ghosts; accordion players and architecture; monkeys and mesmerism; photography and prisons; puritans and politicians. These are just a few aspects of the cultural world of antebellum America that Nathaniel Hawthorne visited in his second novel, The House of the Seven Gables (1852). Though less frequently taught than his first novel, The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables offers a glimpse of how Hawthorne intertwined his view of 1850s America with a sense of the haunting of the Puritan past in Salem, Massachusetts. In this seminar we will read Hawthorne’s second “romance” of antebellum America in the context of the material world of the antebellum years, 1820s-1850s, a culture that eagerly investigated early photography and spiritual communication with the dead, while pursuing property rights that connected the Salem Witch Trials to the ideology of Manifest Destiny. By exploring the material and cultural world through Hawthorne’s novel, we will both gain a practical sense of how to bring literature and history into conversation with one another and explore the impact of that intersection on our understanding of Hawthorne as the ultimate “romancer” of American literature.
Seminar led by Justine Murison, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign