Essay Title: 

Explore Double Consciousness in both Henry Jame`s `The Ambassadors` and Nathaniel Hawthorne`s `The Blithedale Romance.` How is double consciousness portrayed through the characters, the places, and even the authors?

April 1, 2016 | Author: | Posted in american literature, literature and language

The Liminality of Double Consciousness in Henry James ‘ The Ambassadors and in Nathaniel Hawthorne ‘s The Blithedale Romance

Introduction

Hans Holbein ‘s painting The Ambassadors , which Henry James was undoubtedly referencing in his eponymous novel , is a fascinating model because it contains the germs of a peculiar representation of the double and of some of the motifs associated with this theme : distortion metamorphosis , liminality and perspectival relativity . At a first glance , the painting displays a simple referential correspondence between its title and the represented subject : it is a portrait of two [banner_entry_middle]

br men , the ambassadors . However , the beholder ‘s perception is complicated by the indeterminate form emerging in the foreground . This form represents an anamorphosis , it is actually a skull whose contours can be perceived only from a specific position . This image destabilizes the determinacy of portrait representation . As in a game of distorting mirrors , the figures of the ambassadors seem to have been transformed turned inside out and reduced to this extremely disturbing figuration of death

In similar manner , the theme of double consciousness in Henry James The Ambassadors and Nathaniel Hawthorne ‘s The Blithedale Romance is put into stage through an intricate play on perspective and vision , aiming to capture the deployment of a fissured double structure of consciousness . Louis Lambert Strether , the protagonist of The Ambassadors , is torn between the exactitude and myopic vision of Puritanical New England and what he believes to be the openness and perspectival amplitude of the European model . This scission is also rendered in topographical terms as the two continents – North America and Europe – become the epitomes of these radically divergent modes of consciousness . In The Blithedale Romance , double consciousness is dramatized in terms of Mister Coverdale ‘s oscillation between the safety and pleasure of his life at home and the utopian ambitions of the return to nature at Blithedale . Significantly enough , these two dimensions of the self are allegorized through the juxtaposition of two different spaces : the city , where the plot begins , and the countryside

This will argue that double consciousness has the role , in both novels , to enact the characters ‘ transformation by immersing them in a series of representations which have many affinities with the device of anamorphosis – distortions , deceiving perspectives and liminality . The transformative and metamorphic nature of the exploration into consciousness is rendered , in both novels , through the central role given to the motif of the threshold , or of the liminal space which acts as a trigger and signifier of the protagonists ‘ journey into self-discovery . The Ambassadors is framed as the beginning of a journey , starting in a place of transition . Similarly , Coverdale becomes aware of the dangers of the two extreme modes of consciousness – materialism and transcendence – only the moment he constructs a third place for himself , the hermitage , again a liminal space which puts into perspective the two dimensions of the self

The first part of the will focus on Henry James ‘ novel and on the functions of Strether ‘s double consciousness . This motif will… [banner_entry_footer]

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