The coronavirus pandemic in some ways returned us to a more nineteenth-century outlook on contagion. In the early months before the public had a clear understanding of how this coronavirus spread, everything and everyone became subject to politicized suspicion. Nathaniel Hawthorne was perhaps preoccupied with the same questions that current scholars and the general public have faced since the beginning of the pandemic: Who can we trust among ourselves, our communities, and our institutions? How do we know what information is true? Hawthorne's Puritan stories “The Minister's Black Veil” and The Scarlet Letter feature the interdisciplinary concept of social contagion as a major driving force. A focus on similarities between Hawthorne's literary world and the coronavirus pandemic brings to the fore a Hawthornean epistemology of contagion, or what may be called pandemic thinking. In considering how social contagion theory brings together themes of community and gossip in Hawthorne's works, we see that gossip is both a mode of transmission of ideological contagion and the method by which social order is articulated in those works. Finally, we perceive that Hawthorne uses gossip not only to reify but also to challenge the social order in his imagined New England towns.

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