Misfits and Marble Fauns : Religion and Romance in Hawthorne and O'Connor

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2011-02-01
  • Publisher: Mercer Univ Pr
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This book offers a fresh approach to Hawthorne and O'Connor as writers of the American romance. Drawing from a contemporary philosophical context, it applies Gadamer's cultural critique of modernity to the moral and artistic visions conveyed through the authors' use of the literary form of romance. Hawthorne defines the romance form in terms of its freedom from the realism demanded by the novel. The writer of romance creates a neutral territory between the actual and imaginary, inner and outer reality. The world of the romance is therefore one of the author's own making, freed from the constraints of objective reality. As Hawthorne's formulation emphasizes mystery as the traditional realm of romance, it closes the gap between subject and object upon which modern scientific objectivity is based. Hawthorne's scientists, idealist philosophers, artists, and Puritans demonstrate not only his characteristic head and heart dichotomy, but also the prevailing subjectivism of Enlightenment modernity. O'Connor adopts Hawthorne's romance in her own use of the grotesque and for a similar ethical purpose. As a Catholic Christian, she distorts the real in order to reveal the mystery that surrounds existence. O'Connor's secular reformers, liberal intellectuals, and nihilists attempt to manipulate the world of matter in order to improve or remake the world to their own liking. Like Hawthorne's characters, they are confronted by the mystery of the romance to be recalled to the reality of their own finitude. In the field of hermeneutics, Gadamer makes claims that are pertinent to the narratives of Hawthorne and O'Connor. Against the dualism of modern method, he conceives of knowledge as a "fusion of horizons." This dialogic nature of knowledge calls into question the prevailing scientism of post-Enlightenment modernity. Like the fiction writers, he asserts the mystery of aesthetic experience against the will-to-power that, he argues, is characteristic of modern method. This interdisciplinary study seeks to demonstrate that Gadamer's notions of understanding and the philosophical nature of art shed new light on the moral dimension of the romances of Hawthorne and O'Connor.

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