Hawthorne’s Disenchantments

Thursday Lecture Series

In his preface to The Blithedale Romance (1852), Nathaniel Hawthorne claimed to have been trying to construct a "Faery Land" in his novel, a place of enchantment where the fragile "beings of imagination" would not be exposed to killing skepticism. Why then also have a first-person narrator, Coverdale, who seems to be skepticism incarnate? Because, Ogden suggests, the attitudes of disenchantment—debunking, skepticism, contempt—do not destroy the practices they target. They preserve and protect those practices. Ogden elaborates a theory of a disenchantment that incites, rather than repressing. Her talk moves between Hawthorne's novel and the art or science of psychometry, a form of psychic reading rife at The Blithedale Romance's Blithedale community and at the real Brook Farm community on which Blithedale was based.