Dissenting Puritans: Mythological Resignification in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "The Scarlet Letter"
Pages 427 - 441
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The present article is devoted to the analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "The Scarlet Letter", particularly to the text’s inherent work-on-myth and its implications regarding the parameters of citizenship and belonging in the antebellum period. The investigation is two-fold. The article first engages in a detailed, textual analysis of a transformative semiological process, "mythological resignification", i. e., the reworking, rewriting, and transformation of a given culturally foundational mythological narrative. In this case, the myth of America’s Puritan forebears and founders is at the heart of the text, its resignification suggesting alternatives to traditional readings of the nation’s Puritan and theocratic past. The textual analysis is followed by a discussion of how the text’s work-on-myth comments on the negotiation of citizenship. Hawthorne’s text contextualizes, adapts, and transforms the Puritan myth for a democratic antebellum situation and, via its mythological resignification, suggests parameters as well as practices regarding national identity in the revolutionary nineteenth century.
Keywords: civic myth; citizenship; democratization; dissent; Antebellum literature
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