Hawthorne’s Magnalia: Retelling Cotton Mather in the Provincial Tales
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AbstractThis dissertation is a study of Hawthorne’s early development as a historical writer. The introduction attempts to reconstruct Hawthorne’s lost “Provincial Tales” sequence using letters and borrowing records. I argue that Hawthorne designed this work as an episodic history of New England, alternating between fact and fiction, perhaps modeled after Mather’s Magnalia. Chapter one focuses on “Sir William Phips,” which I argue is vital to understanding Hawthorne’s lifelong engagement with historical nonfiction. Hawthorne revises Cotton Mather’s classic biography of Phips by imagining the subject from a private standpoint, while at the same time commenting on contemporary representations of George Washington. Chapter two continues the analysis of “Sir William Phips,” now with a focus on how the story amalgamates various oral legends. I demonstrate that for The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne seems to have gone back to the basic formula he had developed for “Sir William Phips,” except now as a “romancer.” Finally, chapter three examines “The Gray Champion” as an amalgam of Mather, Revolutionary-era propaganda, and nineteenth-century commemorative oratory. In effect, Hawthorne revives Mather across three centuries and points to a legacy of distortion and “romance” where readers would least expect it.
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