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4. The Letter and the Spirit of the Law
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about law and morality in The Scarlet Letter, focusing in particular on the difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law, between feelings of guilt and feelings of shame, and how the publicity of the one (shame) and privacy of the other (guilty) might be mapped onto traditional gender roles – or subverted.
In this course, Dr Nicholas Lawrence (University of Warwick) explores Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel, The Scarlett Letter (1850). In the first module, we think about the tension in the novel between the traditional and the modern, focusing in particular on the novel's form. After that, we think about the politics of the novel before moving on in the third module to think about cultural ownership and the themes of possession, property and propriety. In the fourth module, we focus on the presentation of the law and morality in the novel, before turning in the fifth module to the importance of the marketplace, both as a setting for three of most important scenes in the play, but also as a metaphor for the key themes of (moral) valuation, evaluation and revaluation. Finally, in the sixth module, we think about the themes of dissent and subjectivity in the novel – especially as encapsulated in the novel's highly ambivalent ending.
Dr Nick Lawrence is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. His research and teaching focus includes American literature and culture from the nineteenth century to the present, especially within an international context, Hawthorne and Whitman, and Marxism.
Cite this Lecture
Lawrence, N. (2018, August 15). Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter - The Letter and the Spirit of the Law [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/hawthorne-the-scarlet-letter/the-letter-and-the-spirit-of-the-law
Lawrence, N. "Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter – The Letter and the Spirit of the Law." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/hawthorne-the-scarlet-letter/the-letter-and-the-spirit-of-the-law