Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Overview

Sexual misconduct of society's leaders, the plight of single mothers, the separation of church and state — all are burning issues of the 1990s which sparked outrage and controversy 150 years earlier in The Scarlet Letter. Now, no study of American history is complete without thorough examination of Nathaniel Hawthorne's timeless masterpiece. This multidisciplinary study of the novel contains historical documents, collateral readings, and commentary. In short, it is the ideal companion for students who wish to ...

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Understanding The Scarlet Letter: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

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Overview

Sexual misconduct of society's leaders, the plight of single mothers, the separation of church and state — all are burning issues of the 1990s which sparked outrage and controversy 150 years earlier in The Scarlet Letter. Now, no study of American history is complete without thorough examination of Nathaniel Hawthorne's timeless masterpiece. This multidisciplinary study of the novel contains historical documents, collateral readings, and commentary. In short, it is the ideal companion for students who wish to fully understand the novel in the context of its time, and to unlock its current relevance. Among the materials are original 17th-century documents that illuminate Puritan attitudes and bring the Salem witchcraft trials to life, private journals, historical reports, 19th-century magazine articles, sketches, and newspaper stories. Many of the documents are available in no other printed form. Not only do these materials provide a taste of 17th-century Puritan culture, but they also glimpse into Hawthorne's mind as he comes to terms with his witch-hunting ancestors and his vocation. Most importantly, this casebook contemplates the many issues raised by The Scarlet Letter which inextricably link the 17th-century Puritans to the 19th century culture of Hawthorne to the present. Each section of this casebook contains study questions, topic ideas for written or oral expression, and lists of further readings for examining the issues raised by the novel. Designed as a resource for students, teachers, and library media specialists, the volume is cloth bound and printed on high quality acid-free paper, making it an excellent addition to every library collection.

A literary analysis focusing on the issues raised by the novel opens the casebook. In Part Two, the Puritan's code of crime and punishment and the basic tenets of their belief are analyzed through original 17th-century diaries, letters, and testimony from the Salem witch trials. Part Three examines the novel's introductory essay, the autobiographical The Custom House, which finds Hawthorne grappling with the role his ancestors played in persecuting the Quakers and the Salem witches, as well as his own internal conflict over his vocation as a fiction writer. The moral attitudes at the time of Hawthorne's controversial work are also examined through reviews published at the time of publication. Part Four draws connections between two issues raised by the novel - the unwed mother and the lapsed minister - that remain controversial today and features recent news articles on these issues. A glossary of terms and a topic and person index complete this latest addition to Greenwood Press' Literature in Context series.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
This multidisciplinary study of Hawthorne's 1850 novel, whose moral and social themes, such as sexual misconduct among society's leaders and the plight of single mothers, continue to occupy America's conscience, contains excerpts from original 17th-century documents that illuminate Puritan attitudes, 19th-century magazine and newspaper articles from Hawthorne's time, and reviews of the novel when it was first published, plus recent news articles reflecting the novel's relevance to current issues. Includes a glossary, and chapter oral and written presentation topics. CIP lists the title as the main entry. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

Meet the Author

CLAUDIA DURST JOHNSON is Professor of English at the University of Alabama, where for 12 years she chaired the Department of English.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
1 A Literary Analysis of The Scarlet Letter 1
2 The Scarlet Letter and the Puritans 25
3 The Puritan Mind 49
From The Diary of Michael Wigglesworth (1631) 60
4 Crime and Punishment in Massachusetts Bay 67
5 Anne Hutchinson and Hester Prynne 81
From John Winthrop, History of New England from 1630-1649 (1853) 95
From Cotton Mather, Magnalia Christi Americana (1698) 98
From A Report on the Trial of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson before the Church in Boston (March, 1638) 104
6 Witchcraft and The Scarlet Letter 111
From William E. Woodard, ed., Records of Salem Witchcraft (1864) 131
From Cotton Mather, The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693) 134
From "Letter of Thomas Brattle, F.R.S." (1692) 137
From The Diary of Samuel Sewall (1697) 141
7 "The Custom-House": Hawthorne, the Nineteenth Century, and The Scarlet Letter 147
From "A Review of 'The Custom-House'" (March, 1850) 157
From George Bishop, New England Judged by the Spirit of the Lord (1659) 164
From Charles W. Upham, Salem Witchcraft with an Account of Salem Village, and A History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Subjects (1867) 169
8 "A" Is for Artist: The Creative Struggles of Nathaniel Hawthorne 173
From "Laws Against Excess in Apparel," Records of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (1651) 183
From Cotton Mather, Manuductio Ad Ministerium (1726) 185
From Timothy Dwight, "Letter on Fashionable Education" (1821) 187
From Noah Webster, "Letter to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education" (1843) 189
From "The Scarlet Letter" (1850) 190
From "The Scarlet Letter" (1850) 191
From Orestes Brownson, "Literary Notices and Criticisms" (1850) 192
From Arthur Cleveland Coxe, "The Writings of Hawthorne" (1851) 193
From Andrew Preston Peabody, "Nathaniel Hawthorne" (1853) 194
9 The Scarlet Letter: Issues in the 1980s and 1990s 197
From "Unwed Mothers: The Scarlet Letter Returns in Pink" 204
From "Quayle Deplores Eroding Values; Cites TV Show" 205
From "One Last Column: Writer Details Where He Failed" 206
From "Bakker, Evangelist, Resigns His Ministry over Sexual Incident" 210
From "Preachers' Battle Transfixing the South" 212
From "Pastor Tells of Guilt over Introducing Pair" 213
From "Bakker's Troubles Test Faith at Religious Resort" 213
From "TV Ministry Lists '85 Income" 214
From "Swaggart Is Subject of Investigation by His Church" 214
From "Swaggart Says He Has Sinned, Will Step Down" 215
From "The Phallic Pulpit" 216
Glossary 219
Index 223
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