Degree Year

2001

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

English

Advisor(s)

T.S. McMillin

Keywords

Blithedale Romance, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Michel Foucault, Historical

Abstract

The act of reading a text is twofold. There not only needs to be a text present, but also a reader who understands and interprets that text. One can think of the act of reading as the creation of a second, interpretive text. This second text documents the reader's interpretations of the physical text at hand. While the primary text remains relatively stable throughout time, the second, interpretive text changes with every reading. While these readings are circumscribed to individual readers, the culture and historical situation that the readers exist within also influence him/her.

Michel Foucault proposed that one could look at texts as cultural production. If one were to examine enough texts from any point in time, one could draw out themes and ideas that would define the culture that produced the texts. This method of examining texts as cultural artifact has problems from a literary perspective. It makes the literary critic into a historian and reduces the study of literature to the study of historical artifact. This poses a threat to the entire idea of studying literature as an academic pursuit in its own right.

The method employed in this essay is similar to Foucault's, but the focus is changed. This essay constructs a biography of The Blithedale Romance, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. More accurately, it constructs a biography of the readers of The Blithedale Romance. Instead of examining The Blithedale Romance as a representation of 1852, I will examine the different interpretations of The Blithedale Romance as representations of the historical periods in which they were produced. By examining the interpretations of the text and how they change throughout time, I hope to expose how historical circumstance and historically bound modes of thought influence the nature of a text itself, its popularity, and its relationship to the literary canon.

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