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Inverno 1996 - Anno III
L'Ovest e la democrazia
Cultura, politica e memoria collettiva
L’irresistibilità della grande letteratura. Ricostruzioni della politica di Hawthorne – pag. 4
In a critical survey of major critical works on Nathaniel Hawthorne (Bercovitch and Berlant) and a re-reading of the pertinent sections of Matthiessen’s American Renaissance, the author argues that the category of canonicity is itself a tool of social consensus, creating a space of political and moral ambiguity under the guise of “complexity”. As a case in point, the essay discusses Hawthorne’s stand on slavery, from his biography of Franklin Pierce to later writings, and modern critical efforts to explain it away toward a vision of liberal consensus in the name of the “complexity” of “great literature.”.
"Tu non andrai da solo", ovvero, "E va bene, andrò all'inferno". La dannazione volontaria di Hester Prynne – pag. 18
Contrary to most readings of the text, Hester Prynne does not suggest the she and Dimmesdale leave New England together, but only decides to accompany him when she realizes that he is too weak to save himself, knowing that she is thus giving up her own hopes of redemption. The theme of altruistic self-damnation is also found in Mark Twain’s story Was It Heaven? Or Hell? and in Huckleberry Finn, as an attack on the individualistic Christian ethichs of purely personal salvation. As the desultory endings indicate, both Hawthorne and Twain remain caught in the contradiction between the rejection of the separation of individual sanctioned existing law, and the need to uphold the law as a social tie.
Dogane: "The Custom House" e Beloved – pag. 27
Both Hawthorne and Morrison, from different historical positionings, deal with the crucial passage of American history that precedes the Civil War and culminates in the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law. Both texts share in an imagery of in-between places through which “commodities” (Hawthorne’s “anattoes” and Morrison’s runaway slaves) pass from one space and condition to another, duplicated in the shared imagery of beheading, and in the marginal halfway position of Hester’s and Sethe’s homes. Both texts raise these “neutral grounds” to a metanarrative function through the image of the ghost, halfway between life and death, correlatives of Hawthorne’s poetics of metaphorical disembodiment and Morrison’s poetics of materialization of metaphors, and of romance as genre.
Voci dal palco: George Bancroft, Nathaniel Hawthorne, e la scrittura dell'oralità – pag. 35
In American Romantic historiography, and particularly in George Bancroft’s work, the need to create a metahistorical myth containing both the interpretation of the past and the prediction of the future brought along the choice of narrative registers based on the orality of legend and prophecy, but actually borrowed from the “fakes” of orality invented in public oratory. Nathaniel Hawthorne, on the contrary, tried to deconstruct the monologicity of this (falsely) oral discourse and of writing itself, by creating an ongoings dialogue between his own writing and the simulacra of orality hat in his work conspire to build up a collective counter-voice to the official version of American history promoted by historiography and oratory.
Il fauno di marmo: romance, metaromanzo, teleromanzo – pag. 44
Hawthorne’s novel plays ironically upon the established genres and forms of popular literature, creating an uncertainty between the realistic and the purely fantastic that questions the assumptions of both. In the second section, the essay examines an Italian TV version of the novel, showing how the need to adapt it for mass consumption reduces the story to reassuring clichés of mass entertainment genres.
Sesso, bugie e lettere scarlatte – pag. 52
Hawthorne’s novel is the “great American textbook of sex education”: the double standard it describes is still the norm in society’s perception of nonmarital sex and illegitimacy. Stone reads The Scarlet Letter against the blueprint of contemporary Republican and Democratic welfare reform bills, and offers some guidelines for alternative action.
L'Ovest e la democrazia: verso una ricostruzione dell'esperienza storica statunitense – pag. 60
Testo a fronte
Quattro poesie di Pedro Pietri – pag. 68
Intervista con Herbert Gutman – pag. 71
Through a comparative survey of labor historiography in the United States and in Great Britain, Herbert G. Gutman rethinks critically the Marxian categories of “working class” and “class consciousness” in historical perspective. Paul Buhle, also a participant in the dialogue, makes a claim for “full labor history,” to include trade unions as well as community and state politics. Gutman also discusses the concepts of “self-activity” and spontaneity, both in times of radical transformation and of social stasis.
Cultura, politica e memoria collettiva negli Stati Uniti di fine millennio – pag. 75
The article aims at assessing the legacy of Herbert G. Gutman ten years after his untimely death in the light of the most recent heated debate on multiculturalism. To this end the article sketches some major developments of the discussion in the United States over the last decade and a half on how to reach a new and more balanced relationship between academic research, history for a mass audience, and the use of the past as part of the present political and civil arena.
L'ultima battaglia della letteratura – pag. 86
Is it possible for literature to survive the homogenization of contemporary culture by mass media? Can literature escape the digestion of culture by advertising? It is urgent for literature to take a stand, even if the last. Writers must not allow mass communications to dictate to them how to write; the last stand for literature will be made by writers who write truthfully and “well” in a moral and political sense.