Sem II: Nathaniel Hawthorne
Vorgelegt von: Sirinya Pakditawan
Aspects of American Romanticism in Short Stories by
Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne
Gothic Horror and Lost Love in Poe's "Ligeia" and "Morella"...9
Nature and Science in Hawthorne's "The Artist of the Beautiful"
and "The Birthmark"...13
Conclusion: Poe and Hawthorne Compared...16
Few writers exist outside of the currents of the times in which they live, and
Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne are no exceptions. They are clearly
products of their time, which in terms of literature, is called the Romantic Era.
The Romantic Movement was one which began in Germany, moved through
all of Europe and Russia, and, almost simultaneously, changed the entire
course of American literature. Among England's great Romantic writers are
William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Lord Byron,
Percy Shelley, and Sir Walter Scott. Romantic writers in America who were
contemporaries of Poe and Hawthorne include Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Hence, Poe and Hawthorne became key figures in the nineteenth-century
flourishing of American letters and literature. Famed twentieth-century literary
critic F.O. Matthiessen
named this period the American Renaissance. He
argued that nineteenth-century writers like Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne,
Melville and Whitman crafted a distinctly American literature that
attempts to escape from the long shadow of the British literary tradition. These
writers wrote in a Romantic vein, with a marked emphasis on subjectivity and
an interest in scenes of early American life and pristine American landscapes.
Yet, most of these writers in different ways also exhibited the darker tones of
Romanticism when dealing with American life.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) is perhaps the best-known American Romantic
who worked in the so-called Gothic mode. His poems and stories explore the
darker side of the Romantic imagination, dealing with the Grotesque, the
F.O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and
Whitman (New York, 1941). While not denying the Romantic aspects of this period,
Matthiessen redefined the period as the "first maturity" of American literature, in which
masterpieces of the USA achieved a status comparable to those of the "European Renaissance"
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, the term "American Renaissance" is a
misnomer, if one thinks of the period as a time of rebirth of some earlier literary greatness, as
the European Renaissance, for there was nothing to be "reborn".
However, Matthiessen, in fact, paid little attention to Edgar Allan Poe. Although he long had
a reputation in Europe as one of America's most original writers, only in the latter half of the
twentieth-century had Poe been regarded as a crucial contributor to the American Renaissance.
supernatural, and the horrifying. Poe also rejected the rational and the
intellectual in favour of the intuitive and the emotional, a dominant
characteristic of the Romantic Movement. Hence, in his critical theories and
through his art, Poe emphasized that didactic and intellectual elements had no
place in art. The subject matter of art should rather deal with the emotions, and
the greatest art was that which had a direct effect on the emotions.
For Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) literature also seemed to depend on the
possibility of the Gothic. Hence, of particular interest to Hawthorne was the
nature of evil. As his most famous works The Scarlett Letter, "Young
Goodman Brown" and "The Minister's Black Veil" demonstrate, evil often
coincides with his studies of religion, particularly Puritanism. Like his
contemporary Poe, Hawthorne also made extensive use of symbols. His scarlet
letter ranks alongside Poe's pit and pendulum, and symbols generally play
important roles in all of his major short stories, including the tales to be
analyzed: "The Birthmark" and "The Artist of the Beautiful". What is more,
Hawthorne's works also often hint at the supernatural, the unreal, or the
One of Hawthorne's and Poe's distinctive concerns is also that of separating
head and heart, intellect and soul. In his notebooks, Hawthorne, for instance,
wrote that an unpardonable sin is "a want of love and reverence for the Human
Soul; in consequence of which, the investigator pried into its dark depths, not
with a hope or purpose of making it better, but from a cold philosophical
curiosity, - content that it should be wicked in whatever kind or degree, and
only desiring to study it out. Would not this, in other words, be the separation
of the intellect from the heart."
Hawthorne explored these Romantic ideas and
the themes of obsession, loss and the impossibility of perfection extensively in
his short stories "The Artist of the Beautiful" and "The Birthmark".
However, in Poe's life and works and thus also in "Ligeia" and "Morella", the
stories to be treated in this analysis, love, death and loss, are indissolubly
entwined, and serve as the apotheosis of his science and the springboard for his
horror. Some critics think that Poe was only a marketer of Gothic horror
borrowed from the German models popular during his time. Nevertheless, Poe
himself put to rest this assessment when he proclaimed in the preface to Tales
of the Grotesque and Arabesque "(...) that terror is not of Germany but of the
Hence, the pertinent issue in Poe becomes the origins for the terror of
In the following, it will be analyzed which aspects of American Romanticism
are treated in Poe' short stories "Ligeia" and "Morella" and in Hawthorne's
"The Artist of the Beautiful" and "The Birthmark". For this reason, it is
necessary to take a closer look at American Romanticism as a literary
23.02.2006. p. 1.
Excerpt out of 18 pages
- Quote paper
- Sirinya Pakditawan (Author), 2004, Aspects of American Romanticism in Short Stories by Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/186202