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Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter

2. The Politics of the Novel

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about how we might read into the politics of the novel, focusing in particular on the tension between doing the right thing and maintaining social and/or political stability, and the possibility raised by the novel of interpreting the same action in multiple different ways.


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

APA style

Lawrence, N. (2018, August 15). Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter - The Politics of the Novel [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lawrence, N. "Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter – The Politics of the Novel." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,