ABSTRACT

Historical study of teachers and students reveals how rhetorical theories influence writers (McClish 2015). This case study of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s prose considers the nineteenth-century rhetorical teachings of Samuel Phillips Newman, Hawthorne’s professor at Bowdoin College, a student of Blair, and a proponent of rhetorical taste. Using Newman’s 1827 A Practical System of Rhetoric and Hawthorne’s 1832 travel sketches, we analyze Newman’s influences on Hawthorne—particularly taste and the sublime and how these concepts challenged Hawthorne as a writer in the travel sketch genre. We consider Newman’s influences on Hawthorne as evidenced by writing practices that Newman had recommended or disapproved. In particular, we examine Newman’s explanation of taste and its complementary construct of sublimity and how these concepts challenged Hawthorne. We argue that Hawthorne both wrote within the paradigm of rhetorical taste as Newman taught it and struggled against its constraints to find his own perceptions. Furthermore, we see this struggle happening within the context of Hawthorne’s exposure to Newman’s American-inflected belletrism that emphasized both a discriminatory principle of taste and the growing body of American literature.

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