This new Norton Critical Edition of Hawthorne’s innovative 1852 novel helps readers navigate and appreciate its elusive plot, powerful characters, and maddening narrator.
“Contexts” is thematically organized and includes a rich and varied selection of materials, both public and private, focusing on Hawthorne’s inspirations for the novel. Included are letters, excerpts from journals, published accounts of Brook Farm and the growth of antebellum social reform, Hawthorne’s letters to Sophia Peabody and Louisa Hawthorne about his first days at Brook Farm, and later letters describing his growing reservations about and decision to leave the utopian community. The Blithedale Romance raises interesting questions about the role of women, the popularity of mesmerism, and the growth of cities in mid-nineteenth-century America. Margaret Fuller, Charles Baudelaire, and Hawthorne, among others, provide invaluable insight.
“Criticism” begins with major contemporary reviews by Herman Melville, William B. Pike, George S. Hillard, James T. Fields, Henry Fothergill Chorley, and others that suggest The Blithedale Romance’s initial reception. “Selections from Classic Studies” reprints key excerpts from influential essays published through the 1970s, including those by Henry James, D. H. Lawrence, Irving Howe, and James McIntosh.
“Recent Criticism” collects a striking range of scholarly interpretation by Nina Baym, Joel Pfister, Gillian Brown, Richard H. Brodhead, Lauren Berlant, Russ Castronovo, Robert S. Levine, and Richard H. Millington.
A Chronology and a Selected Bibliography are also included.