This study takes an unusual approach to Nathaniel Hawthorne's work by exploring his knowledge and uses of the visual arts. The authors trace Hawthorne's encounters with art in his native New England, highlight his determined effort to acquire a taste for painting at the Manchester Exhibition in 1857, explore his responses to art as he traveled through France and Italy, and discuss his continuing interest in the visual arts once he returned to America. In contrast to those who maintain that Hawthorne had little feeling for and appreciation of the arts, the authors argue that Hawthorne repeatedly tried to acquire a taste for the arts and used them frequently in his letters, tales, and romances. The study is illuminated by photographs of many of the works of art that Hawthorne saw and wrote about.
Accompanying the biographical exploration of Hawthorne's quest to learn more about the visual arts is a study of how techniques adopted from the visual arts inform the texture and content of Hawthorne's works. The authors examine each relevant tale and romance, paying particular attention to The Marble Faun, the work which, they assert, most fully exemplifies Hawthorne's knowledge and uses of the visual arts. A special section includes Hawthorne's responses to selected art works as reflected in his fiction and notebooks together with photographs of the works themselves. The volume concludes with a select bibliography and an index that provides ready access to specific areas of the text. Students of the American novel as well as specialists in American studies will find this a useful study of the ways in which the visual arts affect literary craftsmanship.
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