ABSTRACT

Ticknor and Fields advertised The Blithedale Romance as a glimpse into Hawthorne’s six-month participation in George Ripley’s Brook Farm experiment. While Brook Farm had been largely forgotten by 1852, the novel’s appeal lay in its connection to its author, a sudden celebrity in the wake of The Scarlet Letter’s commercial success in 1850. As his novels attracted a growing fanbase, readers sought out Blithedale for the purpose of learning about Hawthorne’s past. Ticknor and Fields’s marketing efforts had expanded their print sphere beyond the immediate locality to address a national audience, thrusting fame and recognition on authors to a degree that could not have been previously imagined. Vexed that American readers had not critically examined the ramifications of this expanding print sphere, Hawthorne composes Blithedale to correct the equation of a fictional narrator with a novel’s author, a product of the evolving culture of literary celebrity. Insisting his text be classified as a romance, Hawthorne subverts any recognizable feature of the genre to elicit feelings of disorientation, frustration, and disappointment in readers expecting to access the author’s biographical feelings and impressions of the defunct transcendentalist commune. By situating his romance within a chapter from his own life and then failing to provide any insight as to his biographical experience, Hawthorne invites the reader to consider the changing dynamics of the relationship between author and audience.

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