Hawthorne's Fuller Mystery

Hawthorne's Fuller Mystery

by Thomas R. Mitchell
     
 

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This book explores the deeply emotional yet enigmatic relationship between two nineteenth-century American writers, showing how Margaret Fuller's radical ideas about women's rights, equality of the sexes, and the nature of marriage influenced Nathaniel Hawthorne's writing.

Drawing on recently published letters and journals, Thomas R. Mitchell describes how Julian

Overview

This book explores the deeply emotional yet enigmatic relationship between two nineteenth-century American writers, showing how Margaret Fuller's radical ideas about women's rights, equality of the sexes, and the nature of marriage influenced Nathaniel Hawthorne's writing.

Drawing on recently published letters and journals, Thomas R. Mitchell describes how Julian Hawthorne's misrepresentation of his father's relationship with Fuller destroyed her literary reputation, promoted Hawthorne as a defender of conservative values, and continues to obscure the depth of Hawthorne's personal and intellectual involvement with her. Mitchell concludes that far from being repulsed by Fuller and her assertiveness--as many scholars have claimed--Hawthorne experienced with her perhaps the most intimate relationship that he ever had with a woman, his wife alone excepted.

Blending biography, cultural history, and literary and psychological analysis, Hawthorne's Fuller Mystery raises provocative questions about the origins and intent of Hawthorne's greatest works and offers compelling new readings of "Rapaccini's Daughter," The Scarlet Letter, The Blithedale Romance, and The Marble Faun.

University of Massachusetts Press

Editorial Reviews

The New England Quarterly

Mitchell's scrutiny of the Hawthorne fiction affected by Fuller is remarkable.... Mitchell is the type and template of the ideal literary critic.

American Literature

Well written and tantalizing.

Booknews
Mitchell (English, Texas A & M U.) reexamines the relationship between the 19th-century American writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller. He challenges the conventional view that he was repulsed by her radical ideas about women's rights, equality of the sexes, and the nature of marriage and argues that they in fact highly influenced his work. Indeed, he finds his relationship with her to have been more intimate than with any other woman besides his wife. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Kirkus Reviews
A well-researched, persuasive re-examination of the paradoxical relations between two classic American authors. When Margaret Fuller died in 1850, she was regarded as one of the most important writers and activists of the time—a leading figure in Emerson's Transcendentalist circle and the highest embodiment of the "New Woman," who entered the public arena to debate social and political issues. Yet in 1884, Nathaniel Hawthorne's son, Julian, published a biography of his famous father that would destroy Fuller's literary reputation until the 1960s. The popular book contained a short passage from Hawthorne's journal in which he jeered at her Italian husband, who drowned with her and their baby in a shipwreck off the coast of Fire Island, and concluded that Fuller's intellectual brilliance was a fraud, a thin covering for her true "defective and evil nature" (i.e., her alleged lustfulness). Julian used the virulent passage to present his father as an ideal middle-class husband who was an enemy of Fuller and her feminist ilk. Though the sonns glowing portrayal of Hawthorne has long since come undone, his version of Hawthorne's hostility to Fuller held sway for remarkably long. In this well-argued and engaging book, however, Mitchell draws on extensive citations from both writers' journals and letters, while also offering a close analysis of Hawthorne's texts, to show that the truth of Fullerns character was not as reported. Fuller and Hawthorne in fact enjoyed an intense, possibly intimate friendship for five years before she left Boston for New York (and later Italy). Both fascinated and repelled by Fuller's brilliance and charisma, which he found seductive as well as threatening,Hawthorne was inspired by his passionate attempts to understand her, says Mitchell, to create many of his greatest female characters (e.g., Hester Prynne). In an impressive achievement, Mitchell captures the fiery temperament of each while also untangling their complicated friendship and its literary import.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781558497771
Publisher:
University of Massachusetts Press
Publication date:
12/15/2010
Pages:
332
Product dimensions:
0.74(w) x 9.00(h) x 6.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Joan von Mehren

Mitchell does an excellent job of establishing the possibility that Hawthorne's 'fictional engagement' with Fuller was indeed both considerable and complex. His book is a tour de force of feminist readings, as it proceeds from work to work with an admirable imaginative boldness.

Meet the Author

Thomas R. Mitchell is dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and professor of English at Texas A&M International University.

University of Massachusetts Press

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