Robert Milder’s Hawthorne’s Habitations is a “searching, deeply informed critical biography,” wrote Lawrence Buell. “Milder offers fresh insights on many fronts.” This morning’s talk will focus on The Scarlet Letter within the larger context of the tension between “two Hawthornes”—the writer we know, or think we know, from the published work and the very different man who appears in his extensive notebooks. Hawthorne deepens and becomes more elusive with every reading, and the conflicts his mature romances center upon—the requirements of social order versus the desire for personal and cultural freedom; the wish to believe we inhabit a Divinely ordered universe versus the suspicion we do not—are as much those of the 21st century as they are of Hawthorne’s own time.
Professor Milder has published widely on 19th-century American writers and is also the author of Reimagining Thoreau and Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine. He served as co-editor of The Business of Reflection: Hawthorne in His Notebooks.
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