This is our catalog of courses. We will occasionally adjust the course listing to reflect the addition of new courses and the retirement of others.
Sign up for this American literature course with Dr. Russell and learn why this novel is not a condemnation of Puritan intolerance, but rather of the destructive and bigoted God-playing of Hester and her countless American imitators.
Two main streams of thought shape the great American novels: one is the fervor of Christianity, the other is the skeptical Deism popularized in the 18th century. In English Romanticism that Deism becomes transformed into a confused doctrine of the poet as priest and prophet. Ralph Waldo Emerson transported this doctrine in a form wildly popular for Americans. Although Nathaniel Hawthorne found the idea congenial at first, he became a devastating critic of it in his portrait of Hester Prynne (America’s first anti-heroine). This novel is not a condemnation of Puritan intolerance, but rather of the destructive and bigoted God-playing of Hester and her countless American imitators.
Our readings in Emerson will provide a brief but clear introduction to the ideas behind Deism and Romanticism. Then Hawthorne’s novel will provide a tightly constructed, claustrophobic response that operates like a Greek tragedy illumined mainly by the comic ending of Pearl’s destiny.
Week 1: Emerson on “Nature” and “The American Scholar”
Week 2: Emerson’s Views on God
Week 3: The Scarlet Letter: Preface—The Custom-House
Week 4: Chapters 1-4
Week 5: Chapters 5-8
Week 6: Chapters 9-12
Week 7: Chapters 13-16
Week 8: Chapters 17-20
Week 9: Chapters 21-24
Course materials: The Scarlet Letter—any complete edition; Emerson essays provided free to students by Dr. Russell.
Homework: Approximately 30-40 pages of reading per week. There will be computer-graded quizzes available after each class and a final.