Paradise collapsed: Re-imagining the American past and utopia in the historical romances of Hawthorne, Faulkner, and Morrison
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This dissertation aims to research some of the major American novelists' works of the historical romance genre and investigate the ways in which these writers experiment with the genre in order to convey the immanent truth of their times in an amalgam of past, present, and future. The main tradition of the American historical romance began in earnest with Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was followed by William Faulkner and Toni Morrison. This study attempts to take notice of the abovementioned three writers' aesthetic fictionalization of the past and inquire how these authors remain faithful and true to the fundamental facts of history while modifying external reality to highlight the force of the past as vividly alive as possible within their works. As a result, this study will confirm that these writers use the past as a still evolving and transformative entity to formulate and innovate the tradition of historical romance. All three of these novelists gaze with deep interest at American history and produce historical romances with the same interest in creating an earthly Eden. They published the following paradise-oriented works: Hawthorne wrote The Blithedale Romance, Faulkner Absalom, Absalom! and If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, and Morrison Paradise. The idea of utopia is a crucial subject in these selected works, which this study categorizes under the genre of 'American romance.' Utopia, both as a real historical entity and as a transforming notion of an American ideal transmitted from the past, has been excavated by these authors from their own experiences and their take on both the past and contemporary history of particular regions and the nation. Exploring the process of their metaphorical realization of utopia with experiences--0historical and fictional--that circumscribe the multifaceted idea of 'utopia,' this dissertation argues that the history immanent and external to these works is written in a way to evolve the genre itself and enables the readers to further their imagination of American history as founded upon the utopian longings that have been and still are in the process of being constantly modified and transformed. Being placed in the blurred boundary between fiction and reality, these romances are built upon the re-imagination of history, which is also a composite of pieces of records and recollections that are concurrently private, communal, and national. A great deal of literary criticism, therefore, has focused on the correlations between reality and fiction, but it has also tended to research these three writers separately. With this in mind, and through the new historicist reading proper to the genre, this study proposes to examine how the three novelists invite their contemporary and future readers to actively engage in reimagining and reconstructing pieces of history as a way to shed light on the broader scope of national history. In the process of its development, going deep into the subject of time and utopia, this study intensively analyzes the romances in order to help not only widen the horizons of reading experience but also establish a particular interpretation of literature, that is, the new historicist view. In conclusion, the historical romances will turn out to be in themselves considered as historical artifacts, not only of the ages in which they were set, but also of the periods during which their authors lived and wrote. At the same time, it will also be revealed that they largely reflect the concerns and ideas of contemporary America in which they are being read.