Mesmerism and Hawthorne: Mediums of American Romance

University of Alabama Press, 1998 - 197 páginas
In Mesmerism and Hawthorne, Coale examines the mesmerist-spiritualist craze and relates it specifically to the way in which Hawthorne wrote fiction. Although many critics have discussed mesmerism as a theme in Hawthorne's work, few have analyzed the use of mesmerism as an influence on the very structure and texture of that work. For Hawthorne, mesmerism provided a fertile circumstance, complete with its sense of enchantment and the necessity of breaking its spell. The powers and techniques of mesmerism offered Hawthorne a way of describing the fiction he was trying to create. In effect what he described as the romance participates in the very acts of mesmerism it invokes and thematically or morally opposes. Thus, in creating his romances, Hawthorne employed his own mesmerist-like strategies in texts that participate in the very medium he abhorred. In effect, Coale concludes, Hawthorne's romances constitute a form of mesmeric expression themselves. Coale's examination of the processes of mesmerism - the creation of the trance, the entry into its dreamlike state, the psychology of idolatry produced by this procedure - clearly reveals the affinities between mesmerism and Hawthorne's art and discloses the power and scope of Hawthorne's distinctly American romance.

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