As Theodor W. Adorno once stated, “The unsolved antagonisms of reality return in artworks, as immanent problems of form …. This, and not the insertion of objective elements, is what defines the relation of art to society” (Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, ed. by G. Adorno, 1997, p. 6). Some of the artistic tensions that were explored by Nathaniel Hawthorne during his first period of literary production can be fruitfully approached via this theoretical assumption. Many of the tales and short stories that ended up in the two volumes of Twice-Told Tales (1837) are characterized by a constant movement between the visual and the verbal, the present and the past, the internal and the external. One recurrent way in which these dialectics are addressed is through the repeated use of ekphrasis, the literary description of a work of art, whether painted or sculpted. The young Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was especially preoccupied with the difficult relationship between the creative function of the artist and the weight of the historical past, very often returns to the consideration of artistic objects as embodying not only that specific tension but also several interrelated ones.

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