The Insensible Sliding Process: Hawthorne, Melville, and Historical Memory Open Access

Osborn, Matthew James (2010)

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This paper explores the relationship between Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville
and the problem of historical memory in their works. Both authors examine the limits of
constructing a history as well as the relationship between dominant and suppressed
histories. Looking at the past, the authors turn to the present to demonstrate the cyclical
and inescapable nature of inheritance. Hawthorne presents the past as a medium for
understanding contemporary conflicts. The Scarlet Letter stages two historical
commemorations to demonstrate how they become misapplied in the present. The House
of the Seven Gables
contemporizes the events of the narrative to emphasize heredity's
influence on immediate experience. Both works develop a subversive style that works to
undermine conventional and dominant perceptions of history. Hawthorne's style would
influence Herman Melville in presentation of historical memory in Pierre or, the
. The novel underscores the selective nature of viewing the past, especially
when a history forms the underlying elements of one's character. By looking at their
works in relation to history, this paper seeks to illustrate the sources of their influence as
well as the themes in their novels pertaining to contemporary experience.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 1
2. Historical Commemoration in The Scarlet Letter 5
3. Hawthorne and Heredity in The House of the Seven Gables 30
4. Melville and Historical Memory 52
5.Conclusion 89

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