Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Unexpectedly (but Happily) NOT the Norovirus

Or if it was the norovirus onechan has one heck of an immune system. In any case, she's back, better than ever. Her recovery started in the doctor's office kinoo and she'll be ready for school ashita. Back to Hawthorne blogging then, too.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Close Reading the Norovirus?

Try as I might, I don't have the tools to read onechan's symptoms closely enough to determine if she has food poisoning, a minor stomach bug, or the dreaded norovirus. In any case, I'm taking time off from CitizenSE until we've determined what she has and perhaps even sampled its yucky delights on our own. Because if it is what we fear it is, the next few days will not be fun.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

On Dan McCall and CitizenSE

I found Dan McCall's Citizens of Somewhere Else in the Seinan Gakuin library earlier this month, and I've had a chance to read it and begin to digest it. If you want a taste of the book and don't have access to a university library or online account, you can go to Cornell's 1999 profile of McCall or check out the views Google Books or offer you of it. What I have time to do today is respond to McCall's characterization of his project from the Cornell link:

Citizens of Somewhere Else draws on McCall's own expertise and that of major 20th century critics such as F.W. Dupee and F.O. Matthiessen--and it draws a pointed bead on more recent criticism from the post-modern, post-Freudian schools. McCall has little patience for psycho-babble from critics with a political ax to grind.

"Their political agenda controls everything," he said. "Now if you believe the literary critics, up means down, yes means no, you turn the text inside out. And these aren't just weird little people in obscure journals, they're anthologized all over the place."

McCall's own "agenda" is to stay focused on the author's intent, not what baggage critics bring to the text. This in part accounts for the deliberately conversational tone of the book.

"I want to reach anybody who loves literature. Maybe my tone is too chatty. My voice on the page is my voice in the classroom, that's the way I teach; you don't have to learn some new abstruse vocabulary. So I guess [the way I wrote the book] is a political gesture. It's meant to challenge...the modish modern critics."

Now, there's a chance McCall was misquoted. After all, the author of the profile, Franklin Crawford, misquotes his reading from "The Custom-House"--"As an accomplished orator, McCall still has plenty of flint in his hammer and he recites, with an undulating cadence, the melancholy passage from Hawthorne's preface : '"I am a citizen of somewhere else, I dwell in the realm of quiet..."'"--so there's a chance he got the above quotation wrong, too (it's not a good sign that he needed to insert both a bracketed clarifying paraphrase and an ellipsis to indicate he skipped some of McCall's words). But assuming Crawford at least got the gist of it right, I want to respond to it here today.

As I am trying to reach multiple audiences with this blog, within and outside the academy, I'm also going for a "deliberately conversational," even "chatty" tone, drawing on my years of teaching of Hawthorne and other authors, and prioritizing close readings of individual passages and intertextual relations between authors and texts here. So I have a lot in common with McCall's approach in his book. But I don't see the need to diss "modish modern critics" "with a political ax to grind" while doing my thing. Like Hawthorne in "The Custom-House," McCall here identifies the political with the guillotine in order to differentiate his project from it. Unlike Hawthorne in the preface to the second edition of The Scarlet Letter, McCall admits this move has a politics to it, calling the style of Citizens of Somewhere Else "a political gesture." This blog--and my book project--definitely has a politics, as well, but I'm going to avoid the kinds of cross-generational jostling you can see in McCall's rhetoric (not to mention the fallout from Alan Wolfe's 2003 "Anti-American Studies" TNR essay, which even Leo Marx joined in on). There's good and bad in any critic's work, much less any generation's, and having a chance to examine the ways in which Hawthorne's critics have read race in his works from the 1850s on hopefully gives me some perspective.

Now, if you go back and read my earlier posts on "The Custom-House," you'll see that I agree with McCall to a perhaps surprising extent when he argues that Hawthorne and James "defined themselves as living to some extent in the land of writing itself, the foster home of the imagination" (175) and that both made "a heroic effort to locate some America, some New-Found-Land whose spokesmen they so wanted to be" (185). Next Monday I'll explore in more detail McCall's reading of Hawthorne's "citizen of somewhere else" passage and its connection with other significant moments in his book. Then I'll turn to Lauren Berlant's The Anatomy of National Fantasy and suggest that there are more correspondences between their readings of "citizen of somewhere else" than Crawford's profile of McCall might lead you to believe.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

What Would Hawthorne Say about "Young Goodman Bush"?

OK, so first go read Trevor Seigler's "Young Goodman Bush" (21 Sept. 2004)--I'll wait.

Now, skip this disclaimer. I don't know Trevor Seigler. "YGB" is the only thing of his I've read--although if you want to read more, and more recent, go here or here, or just go straight to his blog, Surf Wax America. I don't read Democratic Underground. When I want to survey what Left Blogistan is thinking about, I'll visit Hullabaloo, TomDispatch, Glenn Greenwald, the talking dog, Orcinus, Pandagon, and firedoglake. More often, I get my political fix through the stylings of The Poor Man Institute, Sadly, No!, Happy Furry Puppy Story Time, Jesus' General, Opinions You Should Have, and (although "often" is not quite the right word) fafblog!. Since I've started CitizenSE, I've been reading its blogroll more regularly than anything else. But I know from experience how tough writing quality political humor is. So I'm sympathetic to what I can see of Seigler's overall project, and I understand "YGB" is one of his earlier efforts at satire,'s so bad that I can't keep trying to ignore it.

OK, forget that "Young Goodman Bush" is terribly written. Or that its plot is a thin and incoherent excuse for making bad jokes about Bush's Yale and Texas years. Or that casting Laura Bush as Faith and Dick Cheney as the Black Man leads nowhere but the obvious, and pointless, literalization of "infidelity." Or that Hawthorne's 1862 essay, "Chiefly About War Matters," with its satirical portrait of Lincoln, may have been a better literary model. No, what's worst about "Young Goodman Bush" is its failure to do anything with its Hawthorne allusions.

Not that it's easy to connect "Young Goodman Brown" to George W. Bush. You have to take your readers away from the Brown of the end of the tale: "A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man" whose "dying hour was gloom" is not the first description of Bush that would spring to one's readers' minds less than two months before the election (unless you were hoping to predict his psychology after a loss to Kerry). You also have to make sure your readers don't think about Brown's despairing comment--'My Faith is gone!' cried he, after one stupefied moment. 'There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given.'--for Bush himself would repudiate this kind of moral relativism. Moreover, the entire problem of specter evidence needs to be dealt with in some way: the devil's words have to contain some truth, but overall be deceptive and manipulative; Bush's reactions have to lead to a radical doubt as to everyone else's capacity to resist the devil's temptations. So if "Young Goodman Brown" is a story about how and where someone goes wrong, the choice of situations to put Bush in is quite crucial. Seigler's story is an object lesson in what not to do.

His first mistake was making Cheney the devil. The devil should be the devil, and Bush, like Hawthorne's Goodman Brown, should be going into the forest in order to face him, repudiate him, and return to Faith, so that, like Hawthorne's narrator, you could condemn Bush's simplistic notions of good and evil at the start of the war on terror (when your cause is just, the ends justify the means; doing evil to fight evil is justified because we're so good and they're so bad that we can never become evil like them): "With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose."

Similarly, following the initial plot of Hawthorne's story provides opportunities for making serious accusations about the Bush family and its allies' past and present actions (both Craig Unger's House of Bush, House of Saud and Kevin Phillips's American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush had been out for months when "Young Goodman Bush" was written, so it's not like there was a shortage of material): think especially of the devil's "I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem. And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip's war."

But where the devil needs to go for the Brown-Bush analogy to really work is to cast his net wider than the Republican Party and insinuate that the Democrats and the American people, like al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, are on his side (you know, where Greater Wingnuttia has been since 9/11). To really be like Goodman Brown, Bush has to be tempted to despair that everyone else has lost faith in America.

This is why Seigler's decision to cast Laura Bush as Faith was so mistaken. Faith needs to be the American people or the American way of life or American traditions. Bush needs to drink the devil's kool aid and really believe everyone's out to get us, even us--or rather, spend the rest of his life doubting whether we are really out to get us or are sufficiently vigilant against the threat we pose to us. This is the only way I can see to make the Brown of the end of Hawthorne's tale relevant to a satire of the Bush administration, although doing so would require more overt attention to the consequences of his administration's profound distrust of American institutions, traditions, and people than Hawthorne gives to Brown's actions at the end of his tale.

So in the end, I don't know if Seigler's story is salvageable, or if the Brown-Bush analogy is really worth trying to establish, but I would be curious to see what a rewrite would look like. Anyone want to take a shot at it? Or offer pointers on doing so?

Friday, January 26, 2007

From Hawthorne's Wilderness Field to Morrison's Jungle Clearing

On Thursday, I ran out of time before I could explain how Morrison's changing Hawthorne's Puritans' encroaching and racialized wilderness into the "new whitefolks' jungle," the "secret spread" of which was "hidden, secret, except once in a while when you could hear its mumbling in places like 124," connects to the voices Young Goodman Brown and Stamp Paid hear. Well, it seems to me Morrison is linking Hawthorne's concern with the problem of evil during the 17th C to her own explorations of the problem in the 19th C. The Black Man preaches in "Young Goodman Brown," 'Depending upon one another's hearts, ye had still hoped, that virtue were not all a dream. Now ye are undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!' Morrison takes lines like these and uses them to address the temptation to believe that whites are devils or inherently evil that spans black intellectual history from Olaudah Equiano to Malcolm X and beyond. If you think I'm exaggerating, check out the figure of Baby Suggs, who does her own preaching in a forest clearing but who ends her life a Goodman Brown-esque figure of gloom and despair.

Among the voices Stamp Paid hears when he approaches 124 is Baby Suggs's; his discovery of the young girl's ribbon in the Licking River exhausted his marrow in a way that lead him to believe he understood her better than he did while he was trying to argue her out of the deep depression that lead her to take to her bed and contemplate colors, searching for something harmless in the world.

Fingering a ribbon and smelling skin, Stamp Paid approaches 124 again.

"My marrow is tired," he thought. "I been tired all my days, bone-tired, but now it's in the marrow. Must be what Baby Suggs felt when she lay down and thought abut color for the rest of her life." When she told him what her aim was, he thought she was ashamed and too shamed to say so. Her authority in the pulpit, her dance in the Clearing, her powerful Call (she didn't deliver sermons or preach--insisting she was too ignorant for that--she called and the hearing heard)--all that had been mocked and rebuked by the bloodspill in her backyard. God puzzled her and she was too ashamed of Him to say so.

Consider their argument, which echoes in Stamp Paid's ears long after Baby Suggs's death:

"You blaming God," he said. "That's what you are doing."

"No, Stamp, I ain't."

"You saying the whitefolks won? That what you saying?"

"I'm saying they came in my yard."

"You saying nothing counts."

"I'm saying they came in my yard."

"Sethe's the one did it."

"And if she hadn't?"

"You saying God give up? Nothing left for us but to pour out our own blood?"

"I'm saying they came in my yard."

"You punishing Him, ain't you."

"Not like He punish me."

"You can't do that, Baby. It ain't right."

"Was a time I knew what that was."

"You still know."

"What I know is what I see a nigger woman hauling shoes."

But Morrison, like Hawthorne, links the theological and the psychological, the political and the personal:

Now, eight years after her contentious funeral and eighteen years after the Misery, he changed his mind. Her marrow was tired and it was a testimony to the heart that fed it that it took eight years to meet finally the color she was hankering after. The onslaught of her fatigue, like his, was sudden, but lasted for years. After sixty years of losing children to the people who chewed up her life and spit it out like a fish bone; after five years of freedom given to her by her last child, who bought her future with his, exchanged it, so to speak, so she could have one whether he did or not--to lose him too; to acquire a daughter and grandchildren and see that daughter slay the children (or try to); to belong to a community of other free Negroes--to love and be loved by them, to counsel and be counseled, protect and be protected, feed and fed--and then to have that community step back and hold itself at a distance--well, it could wear out even a Baby Suggs, holy....

Trying to get to 124 for the second time now, he regretted that conversation: the high tone he took; his refusal to see the effect of marrow weariness in a woman he believed was a mountain. Now, too late, he understood her. The heart that pumped out love, the mouth that spoke the Word, didn't count. They came in her yard anyway and she could not approve or condemn Sethe's rough choice. One or the other might have saved her, but beaten up by the claims of both, she went to bed. The whitefolks had tired her out at last.

Well, once again I've run out of time, so this will have to suffice as a quotation dump if not actually an idea. More Thursday!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Young Goodman Brown" Link-o-rama

Although I've attempted to keep the scholarly apparatus on this blog to a bare minimum and treat it as a place to think through passages and parallels that matter to my book project--a mix of formalist, intertextualist, and historicist pre-draft "free" writing--anyone who's already published on the topics I'm addressing will recognize their influence on my arguments and methods and/or my abject failure to show an awareness or appreciation of their work. As I get more into the revision-of-existing-chapters part of the writing process (there's a big pile of books and articles on the picturesque and nationalism, colonialism, and ethnicity/race waiting for me to finish grading, for instance), I'll do more overt positioning of my project in relation to traditions of scholarship on Hawthorne, antebellum American literature, and African-American, American, and Postcolonial studies.

Too much scholarly work, however, is trapped behind commercial firewalls, available only through online services like Project Muse that charge libraries to make their collections available to their university's or college's faculty and students. Although I can download .pdf files from them, I'm not going to undermine the university presses by posting links to them here. Still, I wish more presses would see the value of at least making their back issues (say, from ten years ago on) available to all for free. Until that happens, there's a proliferating host of online journals that you can find through a simple google or google scholar search. As I've been writing on "Young Goodman Brown," I've been looking around to see what others have been saying about it that overlaps with my concerns. Here are two examples of what I've found that I'd like to recommend:

Scott Harshbarger, "National Demons: Robert Burns, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Folk in the Forest," Sullen Fires Across the Atlantic: Essays in Transatlantic Romanticism, eds. Lance Newman, Chris Koenig-Woodyard, and Joel Pace, Romantic Circles Praxis Series (November 2006).

John S. Bak, "Suddenly Last Supper: Religious Acts and Race Relations in Tennessee Williams's 'Desire,'" The Journal of Religion and Theatre 4.2 (Fall 2005).

I meant to take some time to comment on them today, but family and work make that impossible. It's worth thinking, however, about the kinds of formalist, intertextualist, and historicist moves Harshbarger and Bak make and similarities and differences between their online writing and those who Blog While Academic and talk about or share their research.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Young Goodman Brown and Stamp Paid Hear Voices

At the opening of Book 2 of Beloved, the house at 124 Bluestone Road is no longer "spiteful," as its haunting by the ghost of Sethe's slain infant daughter made it, but "loud" with what is described as "a conflagration of hasty voices." Stamp Paid, who comes repeatedly to the door of 124, red ribbon in hand and pocket, to apologize to Sethe for revealing to Paul D the circumstances of her infant's death, hears these voices as "loud, urgent, all speaking at once so he could not make out what they were talking about or to whom. The speech wasn't nonsensical, exactly, nor was it tongues. But something was wrong with the order of the words and he couldn't describe or cipher it to save his life. All he could make out was the word mine. The rest of it stayed outside his mind's reach." Earlier here I've begun reading his ribbon and ciphering the voices of 124 and I plan to continue doing so today. Like the monumentalized A at the end of The Scarlet Letter, which "the curious investigator may still discern, and perplex himself with the purport," these textual details are significant--and, like many moments in Hawthorne's novel--they point directly to Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown." So, unlike the "men of rank and dignity" at the final scaffold scene when Dimmesdale invites Hester and Pearl to join him--who "were so taken by surprised, and so perplexed as to the purport of what they saw--unable to receive the explanation which most readily presented itself, or to imagine any other--that they remained silent and inactive spectators"--I won't hesitate to draw the most obvious conclusions from this intertextual dialogue between Morrison and Hawthorne.

"Young Goodman Brown" has some well-known voices in it. What's the relation between those voices and the voices of 124? What do Morrison's voices imply about Hawthorne's? It's unlikely I'll have the time today to fully answer these questions, so without further ado let's go to the quotations! The voices Goodman Brown hears--which may be real, figments of his waking or sleeping imagination, or part of the devil's multimedia array of specter evidence designed to deceive our protagonist--emerge from "a black mass of cloud" which was "sweeping swiftly northward" although the sky was blue and "no wind was stirring":

Aloft in the air, as if from the depths of the cloud, came a confused and doubtful sound of voices. Once, the listener fancied that he could distinguish the accents of town's-people of his own, men and women, both pious and ungodly, many of whom he had met at the communion-table, and had seen others rioting at the tavern. The next moment, so indistinct were the sounds, he doubted whether he had heard aught but the murmur of the old forest, whispering without a wind. Then came a stronger swell of those familiar voices, heard daily in the sunshine, at Salem Village, but never, until now, from a cloud of night. There was one voice, of a young woman, uttering lamentations, yet with an uncertain sorrow, and entreating for some favor, which, perhaps, would grieve her to obtain. And all the unseen multitude, both saints and sinners, seemed to encourage her onward.

Note how Goodman Brown's doubt at the reality of the voices disappears when he hears what he takes to be Faith's voice, which prepares him to take up his earlier doubt "whether there really was a Heaven above him" that he had previously been able to keep at bay with the cry, "With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!" As I discussed before, it's the discovery of what appears to be Faith's ribbon that sets Goodman Brown on the path toward joining the voices of the black cloud. Let's listen to the soundtrack of his flight "along the forest-path" into "the heart of the dark wilderness":

The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds; the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while, sometimes, the wind tolled like a distant church-bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveller, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn. But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and shrank not from its other horrors.

'Ha! ha! ha!' roared Goodman Brown, when the wind laughed at him. 'Let us hear which will laugh loudest! Think not to frighten me with your deviltry! Come witch, come wizard, come Indian powow, come devil himself! and here comes Goodman Brown. You may as well fear him as he fears you!'

In truth, all through the haunted forest, there could be nothing more frightful than the figure of Goodman Brown. On he flew, among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter, as set all echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous, than when he rages in the breast of man. Thus sped the demoniac on his course, until, quivering among the trees, he saw a red light before him, as when the felled trunks and branches of a clearing have been set on fire, and throw up their lurid blaze against the sky, at the hour of midnight. He paused, in a lull of the tempest that had driven him onward, and heard the swell of what seemed a hymn, rolling solemnly from a distance, with the weight of many voices. He knew the tune; it was a familiar one in the choir of the village meeting-house. The verse died heavily away, and was lengthened by a chorus, not of human voices, but of all the sounds of the benighted wilderness, pealing in awful harmony together. Goodman Brown cried out; and his cry was lost to his own ear, by its unison with the cry of the desert.

Let's review, shall we? Goodman Brown--who summoned the devil himself when, walking alone in woods so thick that he "may yet be passing through an unseen multitude," remarks to himself, 'There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree. What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!'--is now the most frightful figure in the forest. Goodman Brown--who at the beginning of his "errand" tells himself he'll return to Faith and immediately "felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose," yet first begins to doubt himself when the devil claims that "I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem. And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip's war"--now finds his voice in "unison with the cry of the desert." What seems to be at stake in "Young Goodman Brown" is not only the status of specter evidence in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 or the problem of visible sanctity in the Half-Way Covenant of 1662, it is the entire 17th C American Puritan "errand into the wilderness." Have the Puritans been doing the devil's work--particularly in their demonizing of Native Americans--when they thought they were doing God's? Is the entire American Puritan errand damning evidence of their failure to reach the promised land, of their exodus remaining stranded in the desert?

It is questions like these, I believe, that haunt Goodman Brown after he has repudiated the devil in the climax of the story, not simply his radical doubt that anyone else, including Faith, did the same. 'Look up to Heaven and resist the Wicked One!' he implores her, but "Whether Faith obeyed, he knew not." His dying hour--and indeed the rest of his life--"was gloom," because of the doubt and despair that led him to become "A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man." His desperation stems as much from his fear that everything about the American Puritan errand that he used to believe may be wrong--that the saints may be sinners, that the godly may be ungodly, that the errand itself not only failed to change the "unconverted wilderness" but may also have brought its wildness (and in his mind its "deviltry") into the Puritans' own hearts. After all, if he is unsure of the choices his fellow-Puritans made, how can he be sure that God would honor his climactic repudiation of the Black Man? Like Dimmesdale at the close of The Scarlet Letter, he believes he goes to his God for judgement, knowing fully well that it is only grace that has the power to save his soul. It is in this sense that David Levin and Michael Colacurcio, among others, have suggested that Goodman Brown may well be representative of Puritans' internal struggles with theological and epistemological problems with specter evidence and visible sanctity--my own small contribution so far has been to highlight how the "Young Goodman Brown" has another layer of representativity, where the very attempt to civilize the wilderness and Christianize the savages is difficult to discern from the devil's work.

So, briefly now, because I only have ten minutes to go, Morrison works and plays with these voices and their larger implications in many ways. I won't discuss here the ways in which Baby Suggs and her preaching in the clearing is a counter to Goodman Brown, Dimmesdale, and the Black Man's actions and words in Hawthorne's wilderness, but her story is linked to Stamp Paid's in ways I will get to later. It's what Stamp Paid comes to believe about the voices of 124 and the ways in which he is like and unlike Goodman Brown that I want to end on here.

So, in spite of his exhausted marrow, he kept on through the voices of 124. This time, although he couldn't cipher but one word, he believed he knew who spoke them. The people of the broken necks, of fire-cooked blood and black girls who had lost their ribbons.

What a roaring.

Stamp Paid's own crisis is his doubt over the capacity of whites to repudiate the violence, exploitation, oppression, lynchings, rapes, and murders of the slavery and Reconstruction eras: "What are these people?" he asks. "You tell me, Jesus. What are they?" But Stamp Paid (aided by the narrator's use of free indirect discourse) adds a further dimension to this crisis by linking it to the history of racialization in the Americas:

The day Stamp Paid saw the two backs through the window and then hurried down the steps, he believed the undecipherable language clamoring around the house was the mumbling of the black and angry dead. Very few had died in bed, like Baby Suggs, and none that he knew of, including Baby, had lived a livable life. Even the educated colored: the long-school people, the doctors, the teachers, the paper-writers and businessmen had a hard row to hoe. In addition to having to use their heads to get ahead, they had the whole weight of the race sitting there. You needed two heads for that. Whitepeople believed that whatever the manners, under every dark skin was a jungle. Swift unnavigable waters, swinging screaming baboons, sleeping snakes, red gums ready for their sweet white blood. In a way, he thought, they were right. The more coloredpeople spent their strength trying to convince them how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human, the more they used themselves up to persuade whites of something Negroes believed could not be questioned, the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside. But it wasn't the jungle blacks brought with them to this place from the other (livable) place. It was the jungle whitefolks planted in them. And it grew. It spread. In, through and after life, it spread, until it invaded the whites who had made them. Touched them every one. Changed and altered them. Made them bloody, silly, worse than even they wanted to be, so scared were they of the jungle they had made. The screaming baboon lived under their own white skin; the red gums were their own.

Meanwhile, the secret spread of this new kind of whitefolks' jungle was hidden, silent, except once in a while when you could hear its mumbling in places like 124.

Yeesh, it's been 25 minutes. Not good. More on Saturday!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More Beloved-"Young Goodman Brown" Connections, Courtesy of George William Curtis

Hey, my office computer has been reconnected to the intertubes (helps to have a physics professor as your faculty mentor) and a .pdf version of my Hawaii paper and handouts is available here. But this is Unexpected Hawthorne Wednesday, and I'm rarin' to go on the Beloved-"Young Goodman Brown" connection, so here are some excerpts from George William Curtis's "The Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne," North American Review 99 (1864), which Carmen Joseph Dello Buono has kindly reprinted in Rare Early Essays on Nathaniel Hawthorne. Read the whole thing, as they say! Why? Not only is it a great essay in itself--showing that it's not presentist at all to look into Hawthorne's views on race, slavery, and abolition (a friendly but intense argument I kept having with my grandfather while he was still around to discuss the progress of my dissertation with me)--but I have strong textual evidence that Toni Morrison knew of it when she was composing Beloved. So let's go, italicizing Curtis's prose for emphasis along the way:


[T]he pictures of our poet have more than the shadows of Rembrandt. If you listen to his story, the lonely pastures and dull towns of our dear old homely New England shall become suddenly as radiant with grace and terrible with tragedy as any country and any time. The waning afternoon in Concord, in which the blue-frocked farmers are reaping and hoeing, shall set in pensive glory. The woods will forever after be haunted with strange forms. You will hear whispers and music "i' the air." In the softest morning you will suspect sadness; in the most fervent noon a nameless terror. It is because the imagination of our author treads the almost imperceptible line between the natural and the supernatural. We are all conscious of striking it sometimes. But we avoid it. We recoil and hurry away, nor dare to glance over our shoulders lest we should see phantoms.... [Hawthorne's tales] converse with that dreadful realm as with our real world. The light of our sun is poured by genius upon the phantoms we did not dare to contemplate, and lo! they are ourselves, unmasked, and playing many parts. An unutterable sadness seizes the reader as the inevitable black thread appears. For here genius assures us what we trembled to suspect, but could not avoid suspecting, that the black thread is interwoven with all forms of life, with all development of character.

Salem village was a famous place in the Puritan annals. The tragedy of the witchcraft tortures and murders has cast upon it a ghostly spell, from which it seems never to have escaped; and even the sojourner of today, as he loiters along the shore, in the sunniest morning of June, will sometimes feel an icy breath in the air, chilling the very marrow of his bones. Nor is he consoled by being told that it is only the east wind; for he cannot help believing that an invisible host of Puritan spectres have breathed upon him, revengeful, as he poached upon their ancient haunts.


They forgot her like a bad dream. After they made up their tales, shaped and decorated them, those that saw her that day on the porch quickly and deliberately forgot her. It took longer for those who had spoken to her, lived with her, fallen in love with her, to forget, until they realized that they couldn't remember or repeat a single thing she said, and began to believe that, other than what they themselves were thinking, she hadn't said anything at all. So, in the end, they forgot her too. Remembering seemed unwise.

So they forgot her. Like an unpleasant dream during a troubling sleep. Occasionally, however, the rustle of a skirt hushes when they wake, and the knuckles brushing a cheek in sleep seem to belong to the sleeper. Sometimes the photograph of a close friend or relative--looked at too long--shifts, and something more familiar than the dear face itself moves there. They can touch it if they like, but they don't, because they know things will never be the same if they do.

Down by the stream in back of 124 her footprints come and go, come and go. They are so familiar. Should a child, an adult place his feet in them, they will fit. Take them out and they disappear again as though nobody ever walked there.

By and by all trace is gone, and what is forgotten is not only the footprints but the water too and what it is down there. The rest is weather. Not the breath of the disremembered and unaccounted for, but wind in the eaves, or spring ice thawing too quickly. Just weather. Certainly no clamor for a kiss.


To make some obvious observations: it certainly seems as if Morrison has transformed Curtis's revengeful Puritan spectres into the beloved but revengeful figure of "the disremembered and unaccounted for" that is Beloved; as if Morrison yoked Curtis's romantic/gothic evocations of natural/supernatural boundaries and crossings in Hawthorne's fictions to the history of racialized violence in the middle passage, slavery, and Reconstruction; as if Morrison were trying to put her surviving characters and living readers in the same position as Curtis suggested Hawthorne's tales put his readers; as if Morrison created a narrator who attempts to voice the necessity and costs of turning away from a haunting past that refuses to remove itself from the present; as if Morrison's theorizing of an Africanist presence in American literature and culture takes Curtis's metaphors of the "black thread" and the haunting of New England woods, fields, and shores and runs with them....

There's much more to be said, but this Curtis passage is the clincher for laying out the terms of a "race and Hawthorne problem" admirers of his works have been wrestling with since his death not long before this essay was published:

When he went to Europe as a consul, Uncle Tom's Cabin was already published, and the country shook with the fierce debate which involved its life. Yet eight years later Hawthorne wrote with calm ennui, "No author, without a trial, can conceive of the difficulty of writing a romance about a country where there is no shadow, no antiquity, no mystery, no picturesque and gloomy wrong, nor anything but a commonplace prosperity, in broad and simple daylight, as is happily the case with my dear native land." Is crime never romantic, then, until distance ennobles it? Or were the tragedies of Puritan life so terrible that the imagination could not help kindling, while the pangs of the plantation are superficial and commonplace? Charlotte Bronte, Dickens, and Thackeray were able to find a shadow even in "merrie England." But our great romancer looked at the American life of his time with these marvellous eyes, and could see only monotonous sunshine. That the devil, in the form of an elderly man clad in grave and decent attire, should lead astray the saints of Salem village, two centuries ago, and confuse right and wrong in the mind of Goodman Brown, was something that excited his imagination, and produced one of his weirdest stories. But that the same devil, clad in a sombre sophism, was confusing the sentiment of right and wrong in the mind of his own countrymen he did not even guess.

In the first chapter of my manuscript, I call our attention to late 19th C debates over Hawthorne's racial politics in which Curtis was a major participant--and trace the history of attempts by 20th C scholars and critics to do more than repeat them--in an effort to turn the traditional review of the literature into something more like a genealogy of race and American literature through the lens of Hawthorne studies. Curtis makes other powerful moves like this one, using Hawthorne's own fiction to criticize his politics, which I'll discuss later.

But for now consider in closing what Morrison does with Curtis's "In the softest morning you will suspect sadness; in the most fervent noon a nameless terror": Paul D's first appearance in Beloved comes during Curtis's "softest morning" and the arrival of "the four horsemen" and "Sethe's rough response to the Fugitive Bill" both come very close to his "most fervent noon." Morrison truly makes the border between the American south and midwest "as radiant with grace and terrible with tragedy as any country and any time."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Traumatic Displacements in Mahasweta Devi's "Pterodactyl..."

Anyone who's read more than a couple posts here knows I love to quote passages from the works I'm writing on. So you'll be as surprised as I was to find out I included no long passages and barely any quotations from Marshall or Devi in my Hawaii talk, (which is still in non-.pdf format due to connection problems at the office and may not be ready in time for Saturday, even). You'll also probably be as surprised to find out that I had pegged the conference, the audience, and even the behavior of the first two speakers to a frightening degree and so made excellent choices as to what to shoot for (leave them wanting to read the two works at the end of the talk and get into debates over trauma/witnessing/testimony and melancholia/mourning on their own) and what to leave out (not just quotations but clever takes on details from the works and theories no one who hasn't read them carefully or recently would understand, much less appreciate, without far more set-up and explanation than it'd be worth it give). So it was a talk that specialists would likely be as impatient with as I am, but perfectly fine for the occasion, nevertheless. (Plus my mom [a teacher] and dad [a philosophy professor] were able to attend the talk and really liked it, not to mention that my rock star friend intimated he would give Marshall's novel another chance. Woo!)

The quotations and similarities handouts didn't go over as well, at least in the way I envisioned. I hoped and asked that people read and listen as close to simultaneously as they could, but they didn't seem to be doing much reading. At least they took the handouts with them when they left and maybe actually read them on their own (perhaps on the beach!).

So where is this going? Well, I just wanted to do a quick close read of two of the passages from my Devi handout here today, b/c those emails to students don't just write themselves, you know.

--What did Surajpratap write?
--Nothing but a story.
--That was nothing but a story?
--How do I explain? Starvation for years. Fewer children are being born to them, and the administration still doesn't attach any importance to Pirtha. They have taken it for granted for some time that the government has given them up. Now how will they explain to themselves the reason for this misfortune? Whatever the case, they need an explanation if only for their peace of mind. So they are spreading stories.

Now the SDO begins to speak in bursts. As if a badly wounded person is making a last-ditch effort to make a deposition to hospital or police, to the killers or to friends. Like that man from Chitowra.... The SDO is talking like that man. He is moving his hands, trying to explain, as if there's a tremendous communication gap between him and Puran, a tremendous (mental and linguistic) suspension of contact. Are the two placed on two islands and is one not understanding the most urgent message of the other, speaking with vivid gestures on a seashore? This asymptote is a contemporary contagion.

The primary speaker in both is the SDO, a mid-level government official who's trying to convince our protagonist, Puran Sahay, a radical journalist, to investigate the drought-induced famine conditions in Pirtha and write an expose about the national government's failure to declare it a famine region. Both passages revolve around the sighting of a pterodactyl by one of the Nagesia people in Pirtha; the second passage reveals the distanced, patronizing tone of the amateur anthropologist to be a defense against the truly traumatizing nature of even a second-hand witnessing of the pterodactyl. Surajpratap, who's referred to in the first passage, is another radical journalist, a Dalit activist, who preceded Puran to Pirtha and wrote a report that focused so much on the sighting of the pterodactyl that the SDO suppressed it (we later find out Surajpratap has had a breakdown and has disappeared). Puran's witnessing the pterodactyl itself and his decision not to try to offer any direct testimony to this experience is set against both the SDO's and Surajpratap's reactions, just as the report he does eventually write is set against the "nothing but a story" that is "Pterdactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha" itself.

And in one sense, it is nothing but a story, for the pterodactyl, the interpretation of it by the Nagesia people in the story as "the ancestral soul," the Nagesia youth Bikhia's "new myth" about it, and indeed all place names in the story are either outright inventions by the author or not to be taken literally, according to both an author's note appended to the end of the story and to the author herself in an interview with her translator, Gayatri Spivak.

But in another sense, as Spivak rightly underscores in A Critique of Postcolonial Reason (I include the amazon link rather than the Harvard UP one b/c amazon allows you to browse the book), we should take note of Devi's repeated insistence in Imaginary Maps that when her story is most fictional, it aims to be the most testimonial.

What is she getting at? I think it has something to do with the impossibility and inescapability of testimony to a traumatic experience--the asymptotic communication gap that Puran, in the free indirect discourse of the second passage, comments on in almost as distanced and clinical a way as the SDO's anthropological cliches in the first, is something he experiences himself in Pirtha, with both the pterodactyl and with Bikhia. The silences in his report are a kind of testimony to that gap. But the larger story itself, in its style and structure, attempts a different sort of testimony and a different understanding of both myths and stories.

But that's a story for another post.

Why I Do This and Whom I'm Doing It For

So a few days ago undine at Not of General Interest asked:

How much information is too much information? What kind of information wouldn't you post on a blog?

Does an academic blog have a natural starting and ending point?

[A]re "academic bloggers" (often those who perform as, or are, male and write under their own names) all about the display--scholarship by another means, as another way to impress the masses and climb the academic ladder--and "academics who blog" (often those who perform as, or are, female) all about continuing community and supporting each other in all those trivial, TMI details?

I'll use these questions to help focus my thus far rather disparate set of musings on Why CitizenSE? and what Hawthorne might say about Blogging While Academic.

Second question first: This blog has a natural end point. Since I started it to kick-start my writing process on my book manuscript, American Studies and the Race for Hawthorne, I'll end it when the book is out and the first run of reviews seems to have run its course. Unless at some point during that period of time other folks want to join in and turn it into a "chiefly about Hawthorne matters" group blog, in which case it will become something very different than it is now. But as long as CitizenSE stays mine alone, by its end its categories and archives will provide various points of entry into the virtual version of my book for anyone who happens to drop by.

I'm definitely with Berube, Kaufman, and others who argue that blogs can be a way of making academic work both more visible and more accessible to a wider variety of people, and perhaps even of changing the nature as well as the image of academic work and institutions themselves. The kind of academic work I want to make more visible and accessible on this blog is the work of turning a dissertation into a book manuscript, something I've obviously struggled with for a long time (I started the race and Hawthorne project about 14 years ago and finished the dissertation, The Race for Hawthorne, 8 and a half years ago!), given the other kinds of work I've prioritized in my career thus far (check out the teaching and service parts of my c.v. if you don't believe me).

Since I was fortunate enough to get hired at one of the majority of universities in the U.S. that don't require a book for tenure, I am in my second academic year of actually being a tenured radical. So this blog is really just for me (establishing a daily writing schedule for myself and trying to stick to it; brainstorming, developing, and refining arguments; working with quotations and intertextualities that I might use in the new chapters, which build on stuff that never made it into the dissertation as well as incorporate brand new material; pursuing tangents that don't fit my manuscript chapter breakdown as it stands today but which might end up not being tangential at all; connecting Hawthorne matters to the present; building an audience who might actually decide to buy the book when it comes out; learning to write for specialists in multiple specialties and non-specialists at the same time; etc.) and my readers (whose view of Hawthorne and his works I hope to change; to whom I want to introduce his less-often-read works, debates among Hawthorne scholars, ways of seeing his works in multiple contexts, fields, and literary and cultural dialogues; to whom I want to provide ideas for research and teaching that they can run with on their own, and hopefully report back to me with their results; etc.). I don't foresee building a regular readership with this blog--what could be more boring than checking in every day to see how much closer my dissertation is to a book? But even if all I get are random hits from search engines and the occasional visit from friends, family, and colleagues, it'll still be worth doing.

Now on to the first question. Some things you won't see on this blog: anything to do with my wife or my current students or internal politics at my university; responses to memes or headlines; stuff that can't easily be related to Hawthorne in some way that I really really want to blog on (I created Mostly Harmless, which all of a sudden has become a group blog, for that purpose). I'll continue to blog about my kids when I feel like it here, at least until they're old enough to read about themselves on-line, at which point I'll bow to their wishes--no, check that, the damn manuscript better be done before that happens!

Which leads me to the third question: I'm male and tenured but I'm writing what I've called a "professional/personal blog" under a pseudonym so thin one search or two clicks can blow it away; I limit my links to literary/cultural studies bloggers and group blogs I enjoy reading and whom I'd be flattered to find out are reading this; I've already set up a summer book event with a fellow antebellum lit-alluder, so I'm all about the virtual community building (in fact, my latest analogy for blogoramaville is the now-outdated practice of "calling on" one's friends, acquaintances, allies, and enemies and either leaving a visiting card [sitemeter does it for us] or dropping in for a spot of tea and conversation [leaving a comment]); I'm making public my writing process in hopes of providing support to those trying to finish papers, theses, dissertations, or books (my annoying comments on other people's blogs are aimed at the same target, perhaps); I'm at a stage in my life and career where my "actual" research productivity is going to determine whether another institution would want to try to hire me away from a department I'm very happy to be an active part of and which from the start has welcomed the "new" faculty as equal members of the community (a tradition I look forward to continuing when I return from my Fulbright leave, particularly because we're hiring another pre-20th C Americanist for the first time since my colleagues George Sebouhian and Jim Huffman retired!), so CitizenSE in itself is not going to do much if anything to help me climb any academic ladders (and given the reception of my political blog in its first months, where I played the ineffectual reasonable liberal to my conservative libertarian bomb-throwing friend and co-blogger, may do more harm than good); I'm writing "teh obscurest blog on the intertubes," so to the extent that masses of people are impressed by anything I might write here, all power to them.

Let's see, did I leave anything out? Have I procrastinated long enough?

Yes, and yes. Too long, in fact--my older daughter's been home three hours now from her second day at "school" (a hoikuen is a school-like day care establishment; although no one in our family is a Christian, she's going to a Baptist one b/c the people seemed nice and they're one of the few around that take children before the academic year officially begins in Japan, in April), and I have about 45 emails to get out to my students before the end of the day tomorrow. Tomorrow's close reading will have to be particularly bad!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

What Would Hawthorne Say About Gender and BWA?

Well, as someone infamous for his "damned mob of scribbling women" jab, Hawthorne might not be the best person to ask about the gender politics of Blogging While Academic (a kind of "old is the new new" blogologue, as I discovered when I googled "academic blogging"). But this is too easy an out, as the decades of debates over Hawthorne and women, gender, and sex might be deployed to show.

Perhaps, going off my earlier Hawthorne and blogging post, he would have been a low-traffic male blogger using the pen name Oberon, somewhat bitter at the popularity of high-traffic blogs by Lydia Maria Child, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Palmer Peabody, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, among others, yet constantly experimenting with various methods of reaching their audiences (might he even have posted some of his love letters to Sophia or thoughts on parenting under the cover of his pseudonym?). Or maybe he would have joined a group blog for a time and then started an individual blog satirizing it. Who knows?

What we do know is that at the very least, Hawthorne created a narrator in "Old News" who opened the sketch with the observation:

Here is a volume of what were once newspapers--each on a small half-sheet, yellow and time-stained, of a coarse fabric, and imprinted with a rude old type. Their aspect conveys a singular impression of antiquity, in a species of literature which we are accustomed to consider as connected only with the present moment. Ephemeral as they were intended and supposed to be, they have long outlived the printer and his whole subscription list, and have proved more durable, as to their physical existence, than most of the timber, bricks, and stone, of the town where they were issued. These are but the least of their triumphs. The government, the interests, the opinions--in short, all the moral circumstances that were contemporary with their publication, have passed away, and left no better record of what they were, than may be found in these frail leaves. Happy are the editors of newspapers! Their productions excel all others in immediate popularity, and are certain to acquire another sort of value with the lapse of time. They scatter their leaves to the wind, as the sibyl did, and posterity collects them, to be treasured up among the best materials of its wisdom. With hasty pens, they write for immortality.

and who ended it with the lament:

the old newspapers had an indescribable picturesqueness, not to be found in the later ones. Whether it be something in the literary execution, or the ancient print and paper, and the idea, that those same musty pages have been handled by people--once alive and bustling amid the scenes there recorded, yet now in their graves beyond the memory of man--so it is, that in those elder volumes, we seem to find the life of a past age preserved between the leaves, like a dry specimen of foliage. It is so difficult to discover what touches are really picturesque, that we doubt whether our attempts have produced any similar effect.

Change newspapers to academic blogs, and the survey of 18th-century Anglo-American new media to a survey of, say, the course of 21st-century academic blogging, and Hawthorne's narrator's observations and laments seem quite current. Given that much 18th-century new media was pseudonymously written, those who diss pseudonymous academic bloggers today may not be being Hawthornesque enough. (If you don't believe me, check out New Media, Old Media, edited by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun and Thomas Keenan: it doesn't specifically address blogging, much less Blogging While Academic, but it does put our latest new media revolution/bubble in historical context and think through the implications.)

And yet those who diss female bloggers in particular seem to be repeating the sentiments of the narrator of "Mrs. Hutchinson," with his dismissive comments about "public women" and "ink-stained Amazons"--or at least enacting his observation:

Fame does not increase the peculiar respect which men pay to female excellence, and there is a delicacy, (even in rude bosoms, where few would think to find it) that perceives, or fancies, a sort of impropriety in the display of woman's naked mind to the gaze of the world, with indications by which its inmost secrets may be searched out.

We sure have come a long way, baby! (Just look at the comments on McLemee's IHE piece....)

But enough history (repeating itself). Here are some predictions: as more Blogging While Academic happens, as more young female bloggers get academic jobs and tenure, and as more untenured radicals start families, Berube's "raw/cooked" or Kaufman's "academic blogging/academics who blog" binaries will become less identifiably gendered; we'll start seeing more full-blown structuralist analyses of Blogging While Academic and stop relying so much on such binaries; and Blogging While Academic will become as normal (in the sense of unremarkable yet not as prevalent as you might expect) as putting your syllabi online.

This is as good a place as any to stop--to be continued Monday, on a more personal tangent.

Friday, January 19, 2007

How Did Faith's Ribbon End Up in Stamp Paid's Hands?

So finally I have a chance to share one of the Morrison-Hawthorne ideas I'm most excited about, and which, more than 10 years since it first came to me, is still original, I believe. The only other time I tried to share some of this was at a job talk almost exactly 9 years ago and people there seemed to think it was new, even if they didn't choose to make me an offer. Since then, although I've taught it in 1999 and 2003 twice, I've been too nervous someone would beat me to it in print to even check if anyone had (makes a lot of sense, right?). In any case, I think the following idea is "new": correct me if I'm wrong!

As you can tell from my previous Hawthorne-Morrison posts, I'm particularly interested in Book 2 of Beloved, which frames and then delivers the "unspeakable thoughts, unspoken" of the women of 124 (and, as I'll show, not only of those women). As I've devoted a few posts to the idea that Beloved is possessed not only by the spirit of Sethe's "crawling-already baby" but also by the spirits of those who died in the middle passage, I want to turn our attention from the monologue to the frame, and particularly to the figure of Stamp Paid, who hasn't gotten nearly the critical attention his place in the novel suggests he deserves. Let's start with a simple question: where did he get the ribbon he holds as he attempts to check in on Sethe, Denver, and Beloved after Paul D has left 124? As this post's title suggests, the answer is going to take us to "Young Goodman Brown." But first it takes us to the Licking River:

Tying his flatbed up on the bank of the Licking River, securing it the best he could, he caught sight of something red on its bottom. Reaching for it, he thought it was a cardinal feather stuck to his boat. He tugged and what came loose in his hand was a red ribbon knotted around a curl of wet woolly hair, clinging stil to its bit of scalp. He untied the ribbon and put it in his pocket, dropped the curl in the weeds. On his way home, he stopped, short of breath and dizzy. He waited until the spell passed before continuing on his way. A moment later, his breath left him again. This time he sat down by a fence. Rested, he got to his feet, but before he took a step he turned to look back down the road he was travelling and said, to its frozen mud and the river beyond, "What are these people? You tell me, Jesus. What are they?"

Before proceeding further with this key passage, let me turn to a similarly important passage from "Young Goodman Brown," one that, it turns out, also involves a ribbon:

But something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon.

'My Faith is gone!' cried he, after one stupefied moment. 'There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! for to thee is this world given.'

This is the moment that Goodman Brown, "maddened with despair," sets himself practically flying down the forest-road he has been travelling, into "the heart of the dark wilderness," heading through the "haunted forest" toward the witches' sabbath presided over by a "dark figure" or "sable form" that he had originally set out on his "errand" into the "unconverted wilderness" precisely to reject and turn back from. Morrison has many figures for what triggers a similar despair that grips her characters; for Stamp Paid, as for Goodman Brown, it is a ribbon. Let's go back to Beloved to see what I'm talking about:

Eighteen seventy-four and whitefolks were still on the loose. Whole towns wiped clean of Negroes, eighty-seven lynchings in one year alone in Kentucky; four colored schools burned to the ground; grown men whipped like children; children whipped like adults; black women raped by the crew; property taken; necks broken. He smelled skin, skin and hot blood. The skin was one thing, but human blood cooked in a lynch fire was a whole other thing. The stench stank. Stank up off the pages of the North Star, out of the mouths of witnesses, etched in crooked handwriting in letters delivered by hand. Detailed in documents and petitions full of whereas and presented to any legal body who'd read it, it stank. But none of that had worn out his marrow. None of that. It was the ribbon.

Faith's pink ribbon has turned red, stained by the blood of the black victims of white terrorism during the Reconstruction period. Rather than being ambiguous specter evidence, as the "something" that Young Goodman Brown seizes, beholds, and takes to be damning testimony to his wife's "infidelity" and indeed to the "innate depravity" of all humanity, Stamp Paid's ribbon is all too real, its testimony as speechless and unheard as any of the more formal attempts to stop the deviltry of the KKK and similar terrorist organizations in the postbellum South. Hawthorne scholars tend to read "Young Goodman Brown" as a coded commentary on the Salem Witch Trials and the dangers it taught of taking specter evidence to be real; I believe Morrison is trying to suggest through her "Young Goodman Brown" allusions in Beloved that the violence of the middle passage, slavery, and Reconstruction should be seen as a much great national tragedy. To see the full scale and scope of Morrison's coded suggestion, however, we have to follow this ribbon further, connecting it both to Stamp Paid's and Baby Suggs's despair and to the voices surrounding 124 in Book 2. But the girls are up from their nap, and duties domestic and professional call. Next week, then.

Transnational Hawthorne

Not exactly a link, but I'm not exactly on Fukuoka time, plus my internet connection is down in the office, so I can't turn my Hawaii talk into a .pdf file as planned and give "you all" a link to it. Hopefully by next Thursday or Friday....

In any case, I just came across this graduate course at the University of Maryland being offered in Spring 2007 by Gene Jarrett. Here's the description, then a sentence or two on Gene.

ENGL748A / G. Jarrett

SEMINAR IN AMERICAN LITERATURE: TRANSNATIONAL AMERICAN LITERATURE. What does it mean to study American literature in terms of transnationalism? This course will examine recent Americanist scholarship on the so-called transnational imaginary, as well as transnational representations of cultural, ethnic, or racial similarity and difference in nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature. The contexts of comparative analysis include British culture, ancient Egypt, the Caribbean, Cuba and cosmopolitanism, anti-imperial internationalism, Afro-Orientalism, and Mexican borderland culture. The primary texts include Henry James's The American Scene, Pauline Hopkins's Of One Blood, Claude McKay's Home to Harlem, Martin Delany's Blake, W. E. B. Du Bois's Dark Princess, and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter."

Gene is a dynamo, as his profile suggests. Back when I was an ABD and he was an undergraduate, he somehow talked Toni Morrison into offering a seminar on her own novels for selected undergraduate and graduate students (personally, I would have asked her for classics of African American lit, but I have to admit it was an amazing experience that only he could have initiated). We've pretty much been out of touch since then, or rather only in touch through mutual friends, but I'm glad to see he's teaching Hawthorne in what looks to be an amazing course (I guess The Marble Faun was too long and Anna Brickhouse's work on "RD" is perfect for what he seems to be shooting for). Here's hoping he posts a syllabus online soon!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Why Water Imagery Matters in Hawthorne, Morrison, and Marshall

So we're heading out for Hawaii later today but I am so dissatisfied with my previous Hawthorne-Morrison posting I need to get this one off my chest before we leave and I begin my first-ever CitizenSE vacation.

Too long ago I suggested that Pearl's playing in the sea-side pool with her phantom-like reflection toward the end of The Scarlet Letter had something to do with the most puzzling part of Beloved's stream-of-consciousness monologues near the end of Beloved. It's almost as if Morrison asked herself, what if Hawthorne's pool represented a boundary between the living and the dead? what if Pearl and her reflection had somehow been able to "join" each other? or what if it were really a phantom in the pool and not her reflection? what would have happened if Pearl were possessed by her reflection? And then she imagined Beloved as a vehicle for giving her answers to these questions.

Well, there's another pool in The Scarlet Letter, this one formed by a brook in the middle of the famous forest where Hester and Dimmesdale reunite after seven years apart. Check out the language in these passages, but whatever you do don't dismiss it as mere filler, suspense-building, foreshadowing, or pathetic fallacy. To help you along, I'll italicize key SL phrases and break the flow of the passage in order to note Beloved resonances and crossings after them. So let's visit this forest brook and keep an eye on Pearl and her reflection:

It was a little dell where they had seated themselves, with a leaf-strewn bank rising gently on either side, and a brook flowing through the midst, over a bed of fallen and drowned leaves.

connection to "what it is down there" from the end of Beloved? could these leaves symbolize those who died in the middle passage or in attempted escapes from slavery or in post-slavery lynchings and other racialized violence?

The trees impending over it had flung down great branches, from time to time, which choked up the current, and compelled it to form eddies and black depths at some points; while, in its swifter and livelier passages, there appeared a channel-way of pebbles, and brown, sparkling sand.

think of the collar around the woman's neck in the middle passage scenes from the monologue for the choking up part; for the second, think of the compulsion to repeat or the compulsion to testify often associated with the kinds of traumatic experience Morrison not only writes on but makes crucial to the form of the novel (consider what triggers various characters' flashbacks and how the order in which events are narrated itself follows a traumatic logic--and think of the course of the stream in The Scarlet Letter as something like the form of Beloved

Letting the eyes follow along the course of the stream, they could catch the reflected light from its water, at some short distance within the forest, but soon lost all traces of itamid the bewilderment of tree-trunks and underbrush,

a line seemingly modified at the very end of Beloved....

and here and there a huge rock, covered over with gray lichens. All these giant trees and boulders seemed intent on making a mystery of the course of this small brook; fearing, perhaps, that, with its never-ceasing loquacity, it should whisper tales out of the heart of the old forest whence it flowed, or mirror its revelations on the smooth surface of a pool.

what does this stream connect to, Morrison might have asked--what is its source and destination? and just what do those trees symbolize? what might they be trying to block or hide? and what tales might the stream tell?

Continually, indeed, as it stole onward, the streamlet kept up a babble, kind, quiet, soothing, but melancholy, like the voice of a young child that was spending its infancy without playfulness, and knew not how to be merry among sad acquaintances and events of sombre hue.

Denver? the crawling-already baby? both?

"O brook! O foolish and tiresome little brook!" cried Pearl, after listening awhile to its talk. "Why art thou so sad? Pick up a spirit, and do not be all the time sighing and murmuring!"

But the brook, in the course of its little lifetime among the forest-trees, had gone through so solemn an experience that it could not help talking about it, and seemed to have nothing else to say.

The child went singing away, following up the current of the brook, and striving to mingle a more lightsome cadence with its melancholy voice. But the little stream would not be comforted, and still kept telling its unintelligible secret of some very mournful mystery that had happened

trauma and testimony key in Beloved--what traumatized the brook? is it like the voices Stamp Paid hears outside 124? what secret and mystery might Morrison pondered in the writing of Beloved....

--or making a prophetic lamentation about something that was yet to happen--within the verge of the dismal forest....

Just where she had paused the brook chanced to form a pool, so smooth and quiet that it reflected a perfect image of her little figure, with all the brilliant picturesqueness of her beauty, in its adornment of flowers and wreathed foliage, but more refined and spiritualized than the reality. The image, so nearly identical with the living Pearl, seemed to communicate somewhat of its own shadowy and intangible quality to the child herself.

Almost a metaphor for being possessed by your own reflection, isn't it?

It was strange, the way in which Pearl stood, looking so steadfastly at them through the dim medium of the forest-gloom; herself, meanwhile, all glorified with a ray of sunshine, that was attracted thitherward as by a certain sympathy. In the brook beneath stood another child,--another and the same,--with likewise its ray of golden light. Hester felt herself, in some indistinct and tantalizing manner, estranged from Pearl; as if the child, in her lonely ramble through the forest, had strayed out of the sphere in which she and her mother dwelt together, and was now vainly seeking to return to it.

There was both truth and error in the impression; the child and mother were estranged, but through Hester's fault, not Pearl's. Since the latter rambled from her side, another inmate had been admitted within the circle of the mother's feelings, and so modified them all, that Pearl, the returning wanderer, could not find her wonted place, and hardly knew where she was

sounds to me like Denver's and the baby ghost's reaction to Paul D's initial presence in 124....

"I have a strange fancy," observed the sensitive minister, "that this brook is the boundary between two worlds, and that thou canst never meet thy Pearl again."

ah ha! didn't I call it at the beginning of this post? and I didn't even remember this passage until I typed it in!

...alone as she was in her childish and unreasonable wrath, it seemed as if a hidden multitude were lending her their sympathy and encouragement. Seen in the brook, once more, was the shadowy wraith of Pearl's image, crowned and girdled with flowers, but stamping its foot, wildly gesticulating, and, in the midst of it all, still pointing its small forefinger at Hester's bosom!

again, we have "voices of 124"/"unspeakable thoughts, unspoken" connections, as well as the idea that Beloved was more than just a single person....

...And the melancholy brook would add this other tale to the mystery with which its little heart was already overburdened, and whereof it still kept up a murmuring babble, with not a whit more cheerfulness of tone than for ages heretofore

as if the tale of Beloved's death is part of a much-longer and much-larger mysterious, traumatizing history....


As long as I've got quotation fever, let me end by quoting from some related passages from Marshall's The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, which I think also influenced Morrison's coded allusions to the middle passage in Beloved:

It was the Atlantic this side of the island, a wild-eyed, marauding sea the color of slate, deep, full of dangerous currents, lined with row upon row of barrier reefs, and with a sound like that of the combined voices of the drowned raised in a loud unceasing lament--all those, the nine million and more it is said, who in their exnforced exile, their Diaspora, had gone down between this point and the homeland lying out of sight to the east. This sea mourned them. Aggrieved, outraged, unappeased, it hurled itself upon each of the reefs in turn and then upon the shingle beach, sending up the spume in an angry froth which the wind took and drove in like smoke over the land. Great boulders that had roared down from Westminster centuries ago stood scattered in the surf; these, sculpted into fantastical shapes by the wind and water, might have been gravestones placed there to commemorate those millions of the drowned. on this desolate coast, before this perpetually aggrieved sea which...continued to grieve and rage over the ancient wrong it could neither forget nor forgive.

...they seemed to be puzzling over the sea in front of them which was so different from the mild Caribbean on their side of the island. Their wondering faces raised, they appeared to be asking the reason for its angry unceasing lament. What, whom did it mourn? Why did it continue the wake all this time, shamelessly filling the air with the indecent wailing of a hired mute? Who were its dead? Despairing of finding an answer they would turn away eventually and, leaving the young people romping in the surf, make their way slowly back to the village in time for the car race along the main road.

If you liked these passages from Marshall's novel, you might want to check out another passage I quoted on my other blog to honor the end of Le Blogue Berube. When I get back from my conference and blog vacation, I'll continue with the Hawthorne-Morrison thing, this time finally following through on the issue of specter evidence in "Young Goodman Brown" and Beloved!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Many-Headed Hydra in Hawthorne's Tales and Sketches

Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker's The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic, should be required reading for all Hawthornists. In the way it deals with transatlantic Puritan radicalism and its connections with political, social, and economic radicalism in the centuries before and during which race was codified as a scientific and legal institution, it provides as important a context for Puritan Studies as does the more top-down global history of the same period by Thomas Bender in the similarly-important study A Nation among Nations: America's Place in World History. Of course the revolutionary Atlantic is a place Melville scholars should know well, even if not enough of them have read C.L.R. James. But those who think Hawthorne simply ignored, denied, or disavowed this world have not read his tales and sketches closely enough.

What follows is an incomplete list of pirates, sailors, slave traders, India traders and others that can be found in the Tales and Sketches Library of America edition of Hawthorne's works. Just so y'all don't think I was overreading or anything in my Conde/Mukherjee post forever ago....

"Sir William Phips": this biographical sketch of an early colonial governor not only sheds light on The Scarlet Letter and Hawthorne's relation to Cooper but perhaps shows what Faulkner's Thomas Sutpen might have been dreaming about when he left Appalachia for the Caribbean after his encounter with the plantation system.

In this state of society the future governor grew up, and many years after, sailing with a fleet and an army to make war upon the French, he pointed out the very hills where he had reached the age of manhood, unskilled even to read and write. The contrast between the commencement and close of his life was the effect of casual circumstances. During a considerable time, he was a mariner, at a period when there was much licence on the high seas. After attaining to some rank in the English navy, he heard of an ancient Spanish wreck off the coast of Hispaniola, of such mighty value, that, according to the stories of the day, the sunken gold might be seen to glisten and the diamonds to flash, as the triumphant billows tossed about their spoil. These treasures of the deep (by the aid of certain noblemen, who claimed the lion's share) Sir William Phips sought for, and recovered, and was sufficiently enriched, even after an honest settlement with the partners of is adventure. That the land might give him honor, as the sea had given him wealth, he received knighthood from King James....

Hawthorne's narrator then goes on to imagine a day in the life of Governor Phips, noting various details that can be related to Linebaugh and Rediker, Bender, Conde, Mukherjee, and others:

Just emerging from the door are two footmen, one an African slave of shining ebony, the other an English bond-servant, the property of the governor for a term of years....

Another object of almost equal interest, now appears in the middle of the way. It is a man clad in a hunting shirt and Indian stockings, and armed with a long gun; his feet have been wet with the waters of many an inland lake and stream, and the leaves and twigs of the tangled wilderness are intertwined with his garments; on his head he wears a trophy which we would not venture to record without good evidence of the fact,--a wig made of the long and straight black hair of his slain savage enemies. This grim old heathen stands bewildered in the midst of King-street. The governor regards him attentively, and recognizing a playmate of his youth, accosts him with a gracious smile, inquires as to the prosperity of their birth place and the life and death of their ancient neighbors, and makes appropriate remarks on the different stations allotted by fortune to two individuals, born and bred besides the same wild river. Finally, he puts into his hand, at parting, a shilling of the Massachusetts coinage, stamped with the figure of a stubbed pine tree, mistaken by King Charles for the oak which saved his royal life. Then all the people praise the humility and bountifulness of the good governor, who struts onward flourishing his gold-headed cane, while the gentleman in the straight black wig is left with a pretty accurate idea of the distance between himself and his own companion....

A great crowd of people is collected on the common, composed of whole families, from the hoary grandsire to the child of three years old; all ages and both sexes look with interest on the array of their defenders; and here and there stand a few dark Indians in their blankets, dull spectators of the strength that has swept away their race.... After a variety of weary evolutions, evening begins to fall, like the veil of gray and misty years that have rolled betwixt that warlike band and us.

This apparent acquiescence to what scholars today call "the myth of the Vanishing American" is particularly striking in light of the controversies over Jackson's Indian Removal policy. Even more striking is the implicit contrast between "that warlike band and us," in a decade characterized by the Trail of Tears and several Indian wars. Writing here from the beginning of the decade, Hawthorne missed the signs apparent even then that there were to be more continuities between the era of King Philip's War and his own.

"Dr. Bullivant": this sketch gets into social changes in the New England colonies over the course of the 17th C but focuses on its last 30 years in particular. In some ways, this is a less mythic and more historicized version of events taking place later than "The May-pole of Merry Mount" and somewhat reversing the implications which Hawthorne drew out of Endicott's actions in that story.

This gradual but sure operation [the passing away of older, more pious Puritans and an accompanying "relaxation" in society's "theory and practice of morals and religion"] was assisted by the increasing commercial importance of the colonies, whither a new se of emigrants followed unworthily in the track of the pure-hearted Puritans. Gain being now the allurement, and almost the only one, since dissenters no longer dreaded persecution at home, the people of New-England could not remain entirely uncontaminated by an extensve intermixture with worldly men. The trade carried on by the colonists, (in the face of several inefficient acts of Parliament,) with the whole maritime world, must have had a similar tendency; nor are the desperate and dissolute visitants of the country to be forgotten among the agents of a moral revolution. Freebooters from the West Indies and the Spanish Main,--state criminals, implicated in the numerous plots and conspiracies of the period,--felons, loaded with private guilt,--numbers of these took refuge in the provinces, where the authority of the English king was obstructed by a zealous spirit of independence, and where a boundless wilderness enabled them to defy pursuit. Thus the new population, temporary and permanent, was exceedingly unlike the old, and far more apt to disseminate their own principles than to imbibe those of the Puritans.

There's much more from this sketch of interest, but let's continue with our maritime theme.

"Sights from a Steeple": Almost twenty years before "The Custom-House," Hawthorne was quite aware of where much of New England's wealth came from.

I can even select the wealthiest of the company [of gentlemen]. It is the elderly personage in somewhat rusty black, with powdered hair, the superfluous whiteness of which is visible upon the cape of his coat. His twenty ships are wafted on some of their many courses by every breeze that blows, and his name--I will venture to say, though I know it not--is a familiar sound among the far separated merchants of Europe and the Indies.

"Edward Fane's Rosebud":

She can speak of strange maladies that have broken out, as if spontaneously, but were found to have been imported from foreign lands, with rich silks and other merchandise, the costliest portion of the cargo.

"Egotism; or, the Bosom-Serpent":

It was a dark-browed man, who put the question; he had an evasive eye, which, in the course of a dozen years, had looked no mortal directly in the face. There was an ambiguity about this person’s character--a stain upon his reputation--yet none could tell precisely of what nature; although the city-gossips, male and female, whispered the most atrocious surmises. Until a recent period, he had followed the sea, and was, in fact, the very ship-master whom George Herkimer had encountered, under such singular circumstances, in the Grecian Archipelago.

"The Intelligence Office": Supten? Paging Mr. Sutpen. Are you there, sir? Please report to the Intelligencer. Are you there, Mr. Sutpen?

The next that entered was a man beyond the middle age, bearing the look of one who knew the world and his own course in it. He had just alighted from a handsome private carriage, which had orders to wait in the street while its owner transacted his business. This person came up to the desk with a quick, determined step, and looked the Intelligencer in the face with a resolute eye; though, at the same time, some secret trouble gleamed from it in red and dusky light.

"I have an estate to dispose of," said he, with a brevity that seemed characteristic.

"Describe it," said the Intelligencer.

The applicant proceeded to give the boundaries of his property, its nature, comprising tillage, pasture, woodland, and pleasure-grounds, in ample circuit; together with a mansion-house, in the construction of which it had been his object to realize a castle in the air, hardening its shadowy walls into granite, and rendering its visionary splendor perceptible to the awakened eye. Judging from his description, it was beautiful enough to vanish like a dream, yet substantial enough to endure for centuries. He spoke, too, of the gorgeous furniture, the refinements of upholstery, and all the luxurious artifices that combined to render this a residence where life might flow outward in a stream of golden days, undisturbed by the ruggedness which fate loves to fling into it.

"I am a man of strong will," said he, in conclusion; "and at my first setting out in life, as a poor, unfriended youth, I resolved to make myself the possessor of such a mansion and estate as this, together with the abundant revenue necessary to uphold it. I have succeed to the extent of my utmost wish. And this is the estate which I have now concluded to dispose of."

"And your terms?" asked the Intelligence, after taking down the particulars with which the stranger had supplied him

"Easy--abundantly easy!"” answered the successful man, smiling, but with a stern and almost frightful contraction of the brow, as if to quell an inward pang. "I have been engaged in various sorts of business--a distiller, a trader to Africa, an East India merchant, a speculator in the stocks--and, in the course of these affairs, have contracted an encumbrance of a certain nature. The purchaser of the estate shall merely be required to assume this burthen to himself."

"I understand you," said the Man of Intelligence, putting his pen behind his ear. "I fear that no bargain can be negotiated on these conditions. Very probably, the next possessor may acquire the estate with a similar incumbrance, but it will be of his own contracting, and will not lighten your burden in the least."

"And am I to live on," fiercely exclaimed the stranger, "with the dirt of these accursed acres, and the granite of this infernal mansion, crushing down my soul? How, if I should turn the edifice into an almshouse or a hospital, or tear it down and build a church?"

"You can at least make the experiment," said the Intelligencer; "but the whole matter is one which you must settle for yourself."

The man of deplorable success withdrew, and got into his coach, which rattled lightly over the wooden pavements, though laden with the weight of much land, a stately house, and ponderous heaps of gold, all compressed into an evil conscience.

There's much more, but for today let's end with a passage from Lathrop's study of Hawthorne:

Each town had a special trade, and kept the monopoly. Portsmouth and Newburyport ruled the trade with Martinique, Guadaloupe, and Porto Rico, sending out fish and bringing back sugar; Gloucester bargained with the West Indies for rum, and brought coffee and dye-stuffs from Surinam; Marblehead had the Bilboa business; and Salem, the most opulent of all, usurped the Sumatra, African, East Indian, Brazilian, and Cayenne commerce.

More on this next Wednesday, if we get back from Hawaii soon enough to blog!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Marshall, Devi, and Militant Mourning

Here's a long passage from Paule Marshall's The Chosen Place, The Timeless People, part of which I'll be discussing during my Marshall/Devi talk in Hawaii on Friday, featuring American radical anthropologist Saul Amron's response to Bournehills organic intellectual Merle Kinbona's room as he watches over her while she is in a kind of coma, rendered in free indirect discourse by the semi-omniscient, semi-objective narrator of the novel:

But the room expressed something more, it suddenly seemed to his own overtaxed and exhausted mind, something apart from Merle. It roused in him feelings about Bournehills itself. He thought he suddenly saw the district for what it was at its deepest level, the vague thoughts and impressions of months coming slowly to focus. Like the room it, too, was a kind of museum, a place in which had been stored the relics and remains of the era recorded in the faded prints on the walls [of slave ships and plantation labors and punishments], where one not only felt that other time existing intact, still alive, a palpable presence beneath the everyday reality, but saw it as well at every turn, often without quite realizing it. Bournehills, its shabby woebegone hills and spent land, its odd people who at times seemed other than themselves, might have been selected as the repository of a history which reached beyond it to include the hemisphere north and south.

And it would remain as such. The surface might be jarred as it had been by the events today [the closing of the Cane Vale factory in which the Bournehills natives who own land have traditionally brought the sugar cane they have grown and harvested on their own time to be processed]. People like himself would come seeking to shake it from its centuries-old sleep and it might yield a little. But deep down, at a depth to which only a few would be permitted to penetrate, it would remain fixed and rooted in that other time, serving in this way as a lasting testimony to all that had gone on then: those scenes hanging on the walls, and as a reminder--painful but necessary--that it was not yet over, only the forms had changed, and the real work was still to be done; and finally, as a memorial--crude in the extreme when you considered those ravaged hills and the blight visible everywhere, but no other existed, they had not been thought worthy of one--to the figures bound to the millwheel in the print and to each other in the packed, airless hold of the ship in the drawing.

Only an act on the scale of Cuffee's [leader of a slave revolt that freed Bournehills for a time] could redeem them. And only then would Bournehills itself, its mission fulfilled, perhaps forgo that wounding past and take on the present, the future. But it would hold out until then, resisting, defying all efforts, all the halfway measures, including his, to reclaim it; refusing to settle for anything less than what Cuffee had demanded in his time.

I know this is Close Reading Tuesday and all, but I have to follow this up with a passage from Mahasweta Devi's "Pterodactyl, Puran Sahay, and Pirtha," for the juxtaposition of these two passages gets to the heart of my talk's argument about the meaning, significance and stakes of the similarities and differences between Marshall's and her take on militant mourning; in it, Pirtha can be compared to Bournehills, Puran Sahay to Saul Amron, Shankar to Merle Kinbona, and Bikhia to someone like Stinger or the residents of Bourne Island's Harlem Heights, a shanty town on the outskirts of Bourne Island's capital city (italics are reproduced as in the translation, to indicate words in English in the original novella):

Bikhia, the only discoverer of the embodied ancestral soul, gives everyone oil from a small bowl at the point of a twig in a ceremonial way.

Why does this boy observe the same rule in the matter of the form of the ancestral soul as is appropriate to the funeral rites of the formerly living? No one asks this question.

Did he see its death?

No questions asked.

Did he cremate or bury it?

No questions asked.

But the flow of excitement travels like a current of electricity.

Did the soul of the ancestors come in this way? Or didn't it?

Pirtha knows, it knows.

Did they fall into mourning at a dreadful news? Pirtha knows, it knows.

There are many rites after the oil bath, Pirtha will perform them as needed.

Puran realizes that the crisis of the menaced existence of the tribals, of the extinction of their ethnic being, pushed and pushed them toward the dark.

Looking at Bikhia's tawny matted hair, freshly shaven face,he understood they were being defeated as they were searching for a reason for the ruthless unconcern of government and administration. It was then that the shadow of that bird with its wings spread came back as at once myth and analysis.

This is a new myth. For the soul of those long dead will return hundreds of years later in the form of an unknown tired bird. Such a thing is probably not even there in their oral tradition.

But from now on they will wait in their suffering and in evil times for that shadow, otherwise this deception cannot be humanly explained.

Having drawn that stone tablet Bikhia is the guardian of the new myth. He will protect it.

And this mourning, this "oil bath" has given them an assurance. Now something has happened that is their very own, a thing beyond the reach of the understanding and grasp and invasion and plunder of the outsider....

Shankar says softly, "...But we will not leave Pirtha."

He looks around and says, "Why should we leave? Isn't this our place? Now no tribal will leave. The ancestors' soul let us know that all the places it visited are ours. Can anyone leave anymore, or will they leave?"

--Is that what it let you know? Who told you this?


Shankar says triumphantly.

Puran shakes and shakes his head. They will not leave, they will not go anywhere leaving those stones, hills, caves, and river. To the fertile fields, to the plains, where there is plenty of water, and many supports for survival.

--If they want to give us aid, let them give it to us here.

Spreading his arms, he says, "All this land was ours, the kings took it from us. They were supposed to return it to us, to whom did they give it back? No, we won't go anywhere. Let them give us our dues here."

Both Devi and Marshall draw intimate connections between mourning and militancy, in these and other passages where it either happens or fails to happen for native or outsider individuals. Where Marshall might be read as celebrating a kind of postcolonial melancholia, or at least a work of mourning so protracted and massive that it takes on aspects of melancholia, Devi might be read as celebrating the completion of the work of mourning, a move from individual and collective despair and depression toward hope and resolve. But both seek to subvert and reimagine classic colonialist and racist stereotypes--of backward, primitive peoples trapped in the past by their irrational attachment to ancestral lands and traditions; of the superiority of civilization, progress, modernity, modernization, development--by showing that trauma has a history and a presence, by showing that mourning has a politics and a promise. In a sense, the apparition and passing of the pterodactyl in Devi's novella plays a similar role that Cuffee Ned's rebellion and leadership during Bournehills' brief period of independence plays in Marshall's novel: both provide material for a new story, a new myth, a new sense of identity to be created out of a past and present that seem to offer little but oppression and exploitation--all of which offer resources for survival and endurance of the repeated repetition of the traumatic history of enslavement and conquest which forms the past of Marshall's novel and, in Puran's vision, at least, the likely future of the people of Pirtha in Devi's novella, long enough to perhaps change or end it.

The distance between the realistic reports the outsider protagonists end up submitting and what Marshall and Devi try to achieve in their fiction--and their relation--is worth developing further. But I'm going back to Hawthorne the next two days, then taking a break from blogging until we return from Hawaii on the 17th. I'll report on how the talk and conference went soon afterwards and then in February devote several posts to breaking the talk down into blog-post-sized chunks. Tomorrow I plan to return to the sea and Hawthorne's relationship to Mukherjee/Conde and Thursday before we leave for Hawaii to the brook in The Scarlet Letter and its relation to Beloved.