Fer-de-Lance: Master Killer! by Nancy White

By Nancy White

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252). 25 Indeed, the narrator of ‘The Custom-House’ makes no claims of ownership in regard to what he delineates as the historically verifiable, and therefore “original” (in the sense of temporally prior) parameters of the story. Quite to the contrary, he insists upon ‘the authenticity of the outline’ (p. 63; ‘The Custom-House’). 26 ‘My argument has tried to show that Hawthorne’s own authorial meaning establishes an “indeterminacy” that is not merely a modern critical aberration’ (p. 261). 27 Jean Fagan Yellin, ‘Hawthorne and the American national sin’, in The Green American Tradition: Essays and Poems for Sherman Paul, ed.

Tennenhouse, pp. 1–7, et passim), its tactics of reading ‘the 43 texts themselves’ rightly diagnosed as a matter of constructing Renaissance texts through the aesthetic suppositions and categories of twentieth-century thought. At the same time, however, there has been little recognition that historicism itself is precisely a post-Enlightenment critical procedure. Note, for example, how ‘natural’ the turn to historicism seems in the opening of an influential essay by Jonathan Goldberg: Only the present generation of literary critics has viewed Renaissance literature as a field for formal, rather than historical, investigation.

Colacurcio shares my wonder while providing one of the most inclusive accounts of the pervasive influence of Matthiesssen’s model of the American Renaissance on subsequent literary criticism; see ‘The American-Renaissance Renaissance’, New England Quarterly, 64 (1991), pp. 445–93. 4 The word ‘miscegenation’ that I utilize in this paper to denote interracial sexual mixing has an unusual history that it may be useful briefly to detail. The word was not available at the time of the publication of The Scarlet Letter in 1850; according to the OED, ‘miscegenation’ was coined in 1864 in an anonymous pamphlet published in New York City entitled Miscegenation: The Theory of the Blending of the Races, applied to the American White Man and Negro.

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