Contemporary Perspectives on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Academic Level at Time of Presentation

Senior

Major

English Ed/ TESOL (P-12)

Minor

Spanish

List all Project Mentors & Advisor(s)

Gina Claywell, PhD

Presentation Format

Oral Presentation

Abstract/Description

Ambiguous narration in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter creates a reader that is simultaneously an insider privy to uncertain narrative report and an outsider sympathetic to Hester’s ignominy. While current reader response criticism explores narrative techniques of ambiguity and sympathy in isolation, this paper analyzes how these techniques are used in conjunction to establish a relationship between narrator and reader. The narrator’s role as storyteller and gossip, accepting explanations of a rational contemporary audience and superstitious Puritans, both defies Puritan inflexibility and creates intimacy that includes readers in this community. At the same time, a sympathetic relationship with Hester distances readers from a Puritan community without sympathetic capabilities. Hawthorne resolves this tension through Reverend Dimmesdale’s Election Sermon which becomes the rhetorical device that joins narrator, reader, and Puritans in one voice of sympathetic unity.

Location

Classroom 211, Waterfield Library

Start Date

November 2016

End Date

November 2016

Affiliations

Contemporary Perspectives on Hawthorne

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Nov 14th, 1:30 PM Nov 14th, 3:00 PM

"One Accord of Sympathy": The Relationship Between Narrator, Reader, and Puritans

Classroom 211, Waterfield Library

Ambiguous narration in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter creates a reader that is simultaneously an insider privy to uncertain narrative report and an outsider sympathetic to Hester’s ignominy. While current reader response criticism explores narrative techniques of ambiguity and sympathy in isolation, this paper analyzes how these techniques are used in conjunction to establish a relationship between narrator and reader. The narrator’s role as storyteller and gossip, accepting explanations of a rational contemporary audience and superstitious Puritans, both defies Puritan inflexibility and creates intimacy that includes readers in this community. At the same time, a sympathetic relationship with Hester distances readers from a Puritan community without sympathetic capabilities. Hawthorne resolves this tension through Reverend Dimmesdale’s Election Sermon which becomes the rhetorical device that joins narrator, reader, and Puritans in one voice of sympathetic unity.