Hawthorne's Narrative Strategies

Overview

For more than 150 years readers have interpreted Nathaniel Hawthorne's fiction in a dazzling variety of ways. Instead of arguing in favor of or against what these readers conceive the fiction to mean, this examination of Hawthorne's narrative strategies demonstrates how he leads readers to reason as they do. Throughout his career Hawthorne manipulated and experimented with all the elements of narrative discourse, creating texts that continue to cry out for, yet defy, interpretation. In The Marble Faun, just as in...
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Overview

For more than 150 years readers have interpreted Nathaniel Hawthorne's fiction in a dazzling variety of ways. Instead of arguing in favor of or against what these readers conceive the fiction to mean, this examination of Hawthorne's narrative strategies demonstrates how he leads readers to reason as they do. Throughout his career Hawthorne manipulated and experimented with all the elements of narrative discourse, creating texts that continue to cry out for, yet defy, interpretation. In The Marble Faun, just as in his earliest tales and sketches, Hawthorne varies pronouns and verb tenses, often within the same paragraph. In all his works he affirms the factuality of invented incidents in one sentence, then undermines the affirmation in the next. His narrators often confess themselves uncertain about their own narratives. In some of his fiction elements of romantic ideology are proposed as, alternatively, irresistible and foolish. In others, domesticity is represented both as the only avenue to true happiness and as a wishful illusion. Thus, as this study reveals, in Hawthorne's works history proves to be no more reliable than some obvious Gothic convention. Close readers of Hawthorne's narratives feel the compulsion to interpret, although they can do so only by ignoring considerable contradictions. This ploy, however, is Hawthorne's narrative strategy, one that destabilizes the reader by offering interpretive choices that can be accepted only by rejecting other equally plausible choices.
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Editorial Reviews

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According to the author, Hawthorne continually manipulated and experimented with all the elements of narrative discourse, creating texts that continue to cry out for, yet defy, interpretation. This examination of Hawthorne's complex narrative strategies shows how he leads readers to interpret his fiction the way they do. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780878057610
  • Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.33 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Introduction 3
2 Varieties of Narrative Authority in Hawthorne's Twice-told Tales (1837) 22
3 Narrative Voice in the Sketches 47
4 Narrative Levels and Narrative Authority 70
5 Narrativity and Historicity 101
6 Narrative Transformations of Romanticism 129
7 Narrative Transformations of Domesticity 155
8 Conclusion 186
Works Cited 193
Index 201
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