Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. A Critical Resource Guide and Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Literary Criticism 1950-2000

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This book provides a "selectively comprehensive" and cross-referenced record of the enormous body of scholarship on The Scarlet Letter from 1950 to 2000, as well as an introductory overview of the major patterns and trends in the critical interpretations of the novel. Designed for both new and seasoned readers/critics, the four-part study can be used in two ways: as a chronological record and historical survey of the development of ideas in criticism over five decades, and as a reference guide that can be accessed through the Author, Subject, and Critical Approach Indexes.

Part I provides a chronological, annotated listing of the most frequently anthologized "Early Reviews" of the novel. Part II offers full citations for "Early Influential Criticism [Pre-l 950]" and is comprised of forty-one landmark commentaries that appeared between 1850 and 1 950. Part III, which makes up the bulk of the project and begins with the year 1950, presents a comprehensive annotated bibliography of Scarlet Letter criticism that includes books, articles, special critical editions, collections of criticism, general student introductions and help books, teaching aids and guides, and biographies. The six-part Resource Guide that makes up Part IV groups together special critical editions, collections of criticism, general student introductions to the novel, teaching aids and guides, bibliographies, and biographies.


“... will assist both those students and established scholars in identifying useful materials for research projects ... Essential. All college and university libraries.” – CHOICE

“No other "classic" American novel can vie with The Scarlet Letter for widespread readership, critical attention, and influence. Accordingly, the novel has assumed, at least nominally, as much a part of American heritage as any cultural icon that anyone would be likely to name. As Richard Brodhead and Jane Tompkins have made clear, Hawthorne achieved canonized status before the end of the nineteenth century, and The Scarlet Letter was the chief work to which commentators pointed as the leading cause of his elevation. That status received fresh impetus in the early 1920s, when D. H. Lawrence declared that everyone had been misreading Hawthorne, that he was not the tame, blue-eyed darling whom readers had taken to their hearts, that the ironic language and artfully concealed meanings of The Scarlet Letter revealed a demon in Hawthorne's soul, expressing the very demon belonging to America from the start. To a significant extent, therefore, Lawrence inaugurated rereadings of The Scarlet Letter that have waxed to the present time and show no signs of waning. Since 1950, more than a thousand notes, essays, chapters in monographs, introductions, and even entire books have been devoted to the novel. In 2000, the l50-year anniversary of the novel's publication, two academic journals published essays focusing exclusively on it; and, in further commemoration of the event, the Nathaniel Hawthorne Society convened multiple sessions on The Scarlet Letter at three conferences. Beyond the two [more?] "casebooks" that have been published on it, a further measure of the continuing reappraisals of the novel can be observed in the fact that the Norton Critical Edition will soon appear in a fourth edition, while no other work in the Critical Edition series has exceeded two. Finding guidance to approach and negotiate ways through the formidable amount of commentary on The Scarlet Letter has posed a problem for at least two decades. Numerous essays have been published in recent years bearing obvious signs that their authors have not adequately informed themselves of previous scholarship. Part of the reason for the ignorance underlying this lapse in proper attribution can be attributed to the fact that there has been no full-scale bibliography of criticism on the novel, especially a bibliography that reliably maps out the subjects and issues existing in the welter of published commentary.

This problem has now been resolved … Beginning with the most salient and influential criticism on The Scarlet Letter written in the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries, and then undertaking a decade by decade sequence of commentary from 1950 to 2000, Muirhead intelligently selects and distills the theses, principal arguments and evidence, critical or theoretical approaches, and relevant collateral issues in some eight hundred entries. If read from beginning to end, these annotations permit readers to observe the emergence and sway of a host of perspectives that Hawthorne's masterpiece has invited and continues to invite: biographical, psychological, philosophical, theological, political, sociological, scientific, New Critical, structuralist, post-structuralist, historicist, new historicist, feminist, gender, reader-response, iconographic, aesthetic, linguistic, narratival, and rhetorical- along with all of the source studies included for good measure …In arranging entries alphabetically by authors' last names in a series of divisions by decades, and sub-categories within each decade, Muirhead affords opportunity for readers to observe the development of Scarlet Letter criticism in a historical chronology as accurate and convenient as could be managed … It fairly staggers the imagination to consider the amount of work required to complete this volume. And it really is all here, helpfully organized and tabulated-all that anyone might need as a research guide to the scholarship, the persistent conversations, and both the old and new debates on American's premier novel.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Frederick Newberry, Editor, Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, Duquesne University

“In this annotated bibliography of modem scholarship and criticism on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Kimberly Muirhead provides a valuable resource for scholars and students interested in the history of critical approaches to Hawthorne's novel, as well as for those simply interested in locating and previewing scholarship on a chosen topic. Muirhead emphasizes scholarship from the past fifty years (1950-2000), although she does provide annotated entries for ten early reviews of The Scarlet Letter, as well as for forty works of scholarship published before 1950. All together, she annotates 867 items. Intriguingly Muirhead has chosen to organize her bibliography chronologically, thus enabling the scholar interested in seeing the development of Scarlet Letter criticism to do so rather easily. For each year she divides entries into "Journal Essays and Notes" and "Essays and Studies in Books." The latter are especially valuable to have included because relevant parts of books are often difficult to locate, but Muirhead has done an excellent job in this regard. Annotations run 100-200 words, enabling her to provide an excellent summary of each work. She strives for objectivity, summarizing rather than evaluating, so anyone unfamiliar with Hawthorne scholarship or with the basics of estimating scholarly value will want to be careful. All entries appear relatively equal ... this book is a valuable tool for scholars and students.” – Dr. Leland S. Person, Professor of English, University of Cincinnati

“This book is an invaluable resource for students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, for teachers, and for scholars. It is an indispensable compendium of critics on The Scarlet Letter in the last half of the twentieth century as well as a thorough account of the many theoretical trends in late twentieth-century Hawthorne scholarship, including such categories as New Criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, deconstruction, gender studies, and New Historicism. Muirhead begins the book with a detailed account of Hawthorne's contemporaneous critics, which teachers at all levels will find useful. Also included is a detailed history of criticism on "The Custom-House," another valuable component, which teachers will find helpful, as high school teachers, especially, do not pay significant attention to Hawthorne's "Custom-House" Introduction when teaching the novel-and it is such an essential part of the novel … I have never before encountered such a helpful pedagogical and research tool. The entire book should be in every major university library and at every teacher's disposal so that the rich history of criticism on The Scarlet Letter can continue to impact future readers and scholars in the ever-evolving school of Hawthorne critics.” – Monika M. Elbert, Ph.D., Professor of English, Montclair State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction
The Reception, Canonization, and Critical History of The Scarlet Letter
The Reception and Critical History of "The Custom-House"
Sorting the Scholarship
From Artistry to Anxiety: Trends in Scholarship in Criticism of The Scarlet Letter
Highlights and Additional Perspectives: A Final Look At a Half-Century of Scholarship
The Cultural Impact of The Scarlet Letter in the Late Twentieth Century
Scope and Limits
Arrangement of Materials Methods and Organization Resources Notes
Works Cited
Part I Early Reviews
Part II Early Influential Criticism (pre-1950)
Part III Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Literary
Criticism, Scholarship, Teaching Aids, Study Guides, and Help Books, 1950-2000
Part IV Resource Guide
A. Special Critical Editions
B. Collections of Criticism
C. General Student Introductions to the Novel
D. Teaching Aids and Guides
E. Bibliographies
F. Biographies
Author Index
Subject Index
Critical Approach Index

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