Hawthorne and Melville


Days One, Two, Three, Four, and Five

Theme: Literary Nationalism, 1840 - 1860

"America's 'declaration of independence' in all areas - culture, literature, and ethics" (Weinstein, Classics of American Literature, 18).

Unit Objectives:


Unit Skills and Concepts: Each student will


ROMANTICISM (1800-1855)

Historical context

In 1838 begins the removal of 15,000-17,000 Cherokee Indians from Georgia on the "Trail of Tears" resulting in an estimated 4,000-8,000 deaths.

In 1838, the Underground Railroad is organized.

In 1845, Thoreau begins living at Walden Pond.

On August 10, 1846, the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution is passed by Congress and immediately signed into law by President James K. Polk.

In 1849, Amelia Bloomer begins publishing The Lily, a journal supporting temperance and women's rights.

In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin sells one million copies within the year.

In 1855, Frederick Douglass publishes My Bondage and My Freedom.


  • Short stories, novels, poetry
  • Imagination over reason; intuition over fact
  • The law of the universe was not static but dynamic with change, growth, and development
  • Focused on the fantastic of human experience
  • Writing that can be interpreted two ways: surface and in depth
  • Focus on inner feelings
  • "Anti"-Transcendentalism

    Transcendentalism stressed individualism, intuition, nature, self-reliance.

    Anti-Transcendentalism was a literary movement that essentially consisted of only Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville.

    They focused on the limitations and potential destructiveness of the human spirit rather than on the possibilities.


    Short stories, novels, and poetry

    Major Writers

    • Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
      Wrote about sin and guilt; consequences of pride, selfishness
      The Scarlet Letter; Short stories ("Dr. Heidegger's Experiment," The Minister's Black Veil," "Young Goodman Brown")

    • Herman Melville (1819-1891)
      Ranked as one of America's top novelists; recognized by few in his own time
      Anti-transcendentalist: Billy Budd; Moby Dick: did not sell – only his friend Hawthorne liked it - now considered America's greatest prose epic