Hawthorne's Habitations: A Literary Life

Overview

The first literary/biographical study of Hawthorne's full career in almost forty years, Hawthorne's Habitations presents a self-divided man and writer strongly attracted to reality for its own sake and remarkably adept at rendering it yet fearful of the nothingness he intuited at its heart.

Making extensive use of Hawthorne's notebooks and letters as well as nearly all of his important fiction, Robert Milder's superb intellectual biography distinguishes between "two Hawthornes,"...

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Hawthorne's Habitations: A Literary Life

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Overview

The first literary/biographical study of Hawthorne's full career in almost forty years, Hawthorne's Habitations presents a self-divided man and writer strongly attracted to reality for its own sake and remarkably adept at rendering it yet fearful of the nothingness he intuited at its heart.

Making extensive use of Hawthorne's notebooks and letters as well as nearly all of his important fiction, Robert Milder's superb intellectual biography distinguishes between "two Hawthornes," then maps them onto the physical and cultural locales that were formative for Hawthorne's character and work: Salem, Massachusetts, Hawthorne's ancestral home and ingrained point of reference; Concord, Massachusetts, where came into contact with Emerson, Thoreau, and Margaret Fuller and absorbed the Adamic spirit of the American Renaissance; England, where he served for five years as consul in Liverpool, incorporating an element of Englishness; and Italy, where he found himself, like Henry James's expatriate Americans, confronted by an older, denser civilization morally and culturally at variance with his own.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Milder’s intriguing study of the intersection between Nathanial Hawthorne’s life and work is a biography that’s equal parts close reading and psychological portrait. Drawing heavily on the Scarlet Letter author’s notebooks, as well as his published writings and third-person primary sources, the book relentlessly presents both the author’s mind and work as hotbeds of unresolved dichotomies. Caught between the tendencies of a naturalist observer and a romantic who must impose moral meaning on what he sees, Hawthorne remained stuck, unable to either abandon the energies of the world around him or to fully believe in a higher power that would allow him to transcend them. Milder takes us through his subject’s life, focusing on and ascribing symbolic meaning to the different places (Salem and Concord, Mass.; England; Italy) in which Hawthorne lived. He uses discrepancies between the notebooks and published writings to show Hawthorne’s need to self-censor his pleasure in the baser enjoyments of reality. While Milder’s own need to present every aspect of his subject’s life as a duality tends to add an unnecessary schematicism to his otherwise enlightening study, and his presumptive academic audience presupposes familiarity with Hawthorne, the book is a welcome addition to the body of writing on one of America’s great novelists. (Jan.)
From the Publisher
"Milder's intriguing study of the intersection between Nathaniel Hawthorne's life and work is a biography that's equal parts close reading and psychological portrait... A welcome addition to the body of writing on one of America's great novelists." —Publishers Weekly

"Recounts an 'internal' story, limning the development of a singularly introspective American literary artist, one who found his mental habitations in two contrasting outlooks - that of the well-known romancer and that of the lesser-known realist... This is an exceptionally acute and focused literary biography." —Booklist (starred review)

"A book all Hawthorne scholars will have to read, one that will greatly reward anyone who has read and been haunted by Hawthorne's works.." —America

"It is no secret that Hawthorne's fiction juxtaposed materiality and ideality as patent themes. Only Robert Milder, however, has shown how deeply rooted those categories were in his circumstances and personality; how he wavered precariously between their claims on him; and what price he paid, aesthetically, for hesitating to trust his considerable gifts as a realist. Hawthorne's Habitations brilliantly and fairly reassesses both the writer and his work." —Frederick Crews, author of Follies of the Wise: Dissenting Essays and The Sins of the Fathers: Hawthorne's Psychological Themes

"No one who reads this searching, deeply informed critical biography of Hawthorne will be able to think the same way again about the fraught relation between 'romance' and 'realism' in his thought and writing, or about the significance of the timing and sequence of his books. Despite the mountain of prior Hawthorne scholarship, Milder offers fresh insights on many fronts, culminating with his reassessment of the still-neglected literary upshot of Hawthorne's English sojourn." —Lawrence Buell, author of Emerson

"Robert Milder's expertly crafted close readings of Hawthorne's tales and romances synthesize several decades of scholarship even as they yield up their own gems of literary and biographical insight." —Megan Marshall, author of The Peabody Sisters

"[An] excellent study...Highly recommended." —Choice

"There is much to admire in this inclusive study." —Australian Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199917259
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/21/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,437,979
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Milder, Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, is the author of Reimagining Thoreau and Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine and the coeditor of The Business of Reflection: Hawthorne in His Notebooks.

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Table of Contents

Preface

Chapter 1: Two Hawthornes

Chapter 2: Telling it Slant

Chapter 3: The Wild and the Good

Chapter 4: Undoing it All

Chapter 5: Hawthorne and the Problem of New England

Chapter 6: Sisters Act

Chapter 7: In the Belly of the Beast

Chapter 8: Indian Summer

Chapter 9: A Fine Bewilderment

Chapter 10: On the Crust

Coda: Last Words

Endnotes

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