The haunted mind: Prolegomena to Hawthorne's version of pastoral

Date of Completion

January 1990


Biology, Anatomy|Literature, Classical|Literature, Comparative|Literature, English




The pastoral myth has been used to define the meaning of America since the age of discovery. The depth and complexity that mark its hold on the American imagination begin, however, with Hawthorne: a withdrawal of attention from the "civilized" and an encounter with the "nature" of the psyche. Hawthorne's pastoral is literally "dreaming."^ The investigation of this dream-scape presupposes psychology, but critical inquiry has been limited by a Freudian or personalistic scope. Similarly, formal investigations have been limited by a reliance on Virgil's Eclogues as a comprehensive model. This study proposes another view of the archetypal influences on Hawthorne's pastoral dreaming. The Idylls of Theocritus and the Eclogues of Virgil are examined as dream-series, each postulating a very different psychology. The conflict between them--between a decentralizing process and an imperializing process--reveals a conflict at the base of Western culture since Virgil's time over the relation of individual image-making to social and spiritual norms.^ The conflict between Theocritan and Virgilian pastoral modes is further explored in the Renaissance. Dante's Purgatorio is seen as a pastoral dream-series that re-invents the "Virgil-complex." It is opposed by the underground stream of imagery developed in the Florentine "Realm of Pan," the Neoplatonic circle at Carregi. Both of these streams, the purgatorial/imperial and the neoplatonic, are taken up by Spenser in his re-formulation of the pastoral. Imperial pastoralism receives its most concise formulation in Spenser's work.^ These conflicting streams are seen as informing Hawthorne's "haunted mind." The examination of each as a dream-series or "complex" allows us to insight Hawthorne's situation as a complex imaginative tension out of which his deconstructive fictions are born. ^