Nathaniel Hawthorne as Political Philosopher: Revolutionary Principles Domesticated and Personalized

Nathaniel Hawthorne as Political Philosopher: Revolutionary Principles Domesticated and Personalized

by John E. Alvis
     
 

Using the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne as a case study, John E. Alvis shows that a novelist can be a political philosopher. He demonstrates that much of Hawthorne’s works are rooted in the American political tradition. Once we view his writings in connection with the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, we grasp that what Thomas Jefferson

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Overview

Using the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne as a case study, John E. Alvis shows that a novelist can be a political philosopher. He demonstrates that much of Hawthorne’s works are rooted in the American political tradition. Once we view his writings in connection with the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence, we grasp that what Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had stated explicitly, Hawthorne’s fiction conveys dramatically. With examples drawn from Hawthorne’s shorter works, as well as acknowledged classics, such as The Scarlet Letter, John E. Alvis shows that Hawthorne’s characters bear something sacred in their generic humanity, yet are subject to moral judgment. He conveys reciprocity between obligations regulating individual relations and the responsibilities of individuals to their community.

From America’s founding proclamations in the Declaration of Independence we take a sense of national aspirations for a political order that conforms to "laws of nature and nature’s God." From this higher law emerge the principles enumerated in that revolutionary document. Are these principles confined to the political, or do they reach into the experience of citizens to inform conduct? Do they include family, local community, and individual face-to-face relations with neighbors and strangers? Can one make a distinct way of life by fidelity to such standards as higher law, equality, liberty, natural rights, and consent? This study is distinguished from other writings on Hawthorne in its largely positive focus on America. Alvis characterizes Hawthorne as a rational patriot who endorses America’s new terms for human association. This fascinating study provides new insights into the mind of one of the greatest American writers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[R]elates Hawthorne’s work to the opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, displaying remarkable command of the philosophical ramifications of the document in American polity and their reflection in Hawthorne’s work… [A]n astute reading of Hawthorne’s work, Puritan society, Hawthorne’s society, and contemporary society… Highly recommended.” —M. S. Stephenson, Choice “Do the great American novelists have anything to teach us about America, specifically about its epochal experiment in democracy? For most literary critics, the answer is 'No,' but for John Alvis, it is emphatically 'Yes.' With Hawthorne as a case study, Alvis uses his considerable skills as a close reader to show that a novelist can be a political philosopher. Covering all of Hawthorne’s major and much of his minor fiction, with an emphasis on The Scarlet Letter, Alvis’ book is a significant contribution to our understanding of American literature and of America itself.” —Paul A. Cantor, Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of Virginia “Alvis’ sensitive and moving account of Hawthorne’s tales demonstrates their profound relevance to the American political tradition. Equality finds its support in human sympathy, while liberty is required by the sanctity of the human heart. By conceiving of the declaration’s principles as moral imperatives, Alvis’ Hawthorne places American liberalism on a moral plane that speaks to its defenders and critics alike. Alvis not only deepens our appreciation of Hawthorne, but helps us to understand the meaning of America’s identity and the fundamental principles that define us as nation. Nathaniel Hawthorne as Political Philosopher stands as a model for studies in politics and literature.” —Mary P. Nichols, professor and director of graduate studies, Baylor University

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781412852623
Publisher:
Transaction Publishers
Publication date:
11/30/2013
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
294
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.62(d)

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