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Hawthorne’s Prophets: The Bible and the Creation of American Literature

By author: Fay Elanor Ellwood
Product Code: P702
ISBN: 9780881469509
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Nathaniel Hawthorne helped to establish and validate American literature by creating a mythology of America's origins that features prophetic themes and figures. Just as biblical prophets emerge at the dawn of ancient Israel, Hawthorne's prophets emerge in stories of the beginnings of America. Thus, an understanding of biblical prophetic writings enhances the reading of these texts. In "The Minister's Black Veil," Reverend Hooper carries out a sort of prophetic symbolic action in the wearing of the black veil. In THE SCARLET LETTER, Hester Prynne is a prophet along the lines of Isaiah's Suffering Servant. She is rejected by her community, silently endures their criticism, but ultimately offers consolation to those who once rebuked her. In viewing Hester (and others) as prophet, we see Hawthorne crafting American literature as self-questioning, probing its relationship with its original (often Puritan) ideals. Hawthorne's prophets revise old ideologies, making new symbols for a new world. Grounded in biblical research, each chapter of HAWTHORNE'S PROPHETS explores prophet figures and themes in a different short story or novel. Most of these stories, like much of biblical prophetic literature, are retrospective: they look back to an earlier time, embodying the views and biases of a nineteenth-century writer engaged in creating tales laced with shadows and questions of identity. A national literature must have origin stories--mythical roots that go backward as well as forward. Just as England had legends of King Arthur and Beowulf, Hawthorne's prophet stories shape the formation of American literature.
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Reviews

Review by: Marvin A. Sweeney, Claremont School of Theology - July 10, 2024
"Fay Ellwood's HAWTHORNE'S PROPHETS presents an insightful and authoritative study of the role played by the biblical prophets in Hawthorne's efforts to establish a distinctively American literary and mythological tradition during the early nineteenth century. Her work demonstrates that Hawthorne's understanding of the privileged knowledge of the prophets and their capacity to announce the outworking of the divine will in human life is integral to his own writings."
Review by: Lori Anne Ferrell, author of THE BIBLE AND THE PEOPLE - July 10, 2024
"HAWTHORNE'S PROPHETS reminds us why early American literature cannot be properly understood without understanding what early Americans would have called the Old Testament. Writing with rare delicacy and singular insight, Fay Ellwood employs a deep knowledge of both literature and scripture to make a compelling argument about American foundational narratives."

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