ABSTRACT

The first members of the Pyncheon family Nathaniel Hawthorne names in The House of the Seven Gables include no humans, but “the old Pyncheon-house” and “the Pyncheon-elm” (5). I argue that Hawthorne’s representation of nature produces a cultural–natural place-sense in which environment acts both as cultural symbol and endemic nature separate from human conceptions. By reading Hawthorne via Lawrence Buell’s “place-sense,” I argue for doubled existences of Hawthorne’s environment and position Hawthorne in dialogue with Alexander von Humboldt. Hawthorne’s depiction of nature that displays the “external world and our ideas and feelings melt[ing] into each other” both demonstrates a Humboldtian response to a common division between pre reason and experience in natural philosophy up through the nineteenth-century and also resonates with Donna Haraway’s call for “ongoing multispecies stories and practices of becoming-with” that defy preexisting anthropocentric models (Humboldt 1:64; Trouble 55). This consideration of Hawthorne alongside Humboldt invites interplay between nineteenth-century American literature and nascent nineteenth-century ecological philosophies, reading both in a cultural–natural framework engaging across multiple disciplines and foregrounds the opportunities to reexamine representations of nature in American literature considering nature’s difference from and dependence upon cultural conceptions.

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