Home              Plot  Summary                Plot  Quiz                  Bibliography                 Links
divider.gif (1693 bytes)


      With exception to his friend Melville, many of Hawthorne's contemporaries, especially the English, criticized Hawthorne's writings.  It wasn't until decades later, when a scholar resurrected Hawthorne from the dusty shelves of forgotten lore, that Hawthorne's works began to appeal to the literary world .  Coincidentally, The Marble Faun (1860) and it's romantic overtones conveniently signify the close of what many considered romantic tendencies in American literature.  Hawthorne writes in his Preface, "romance and poetry, like ivy, lichens, and wall-flowers, need Ruin to make them grow."  Civil War, because of its full destructive course from prelude to aftermath, profoundly altered the American literary consciousness.  The Civil War in a sense ruined American romantic inclinations.  The task for twenty-first century readers then becomes one of recovery.   As readers, we are to salvage The Marble Faun from the ruins. 

      Some critics have remarked that although The Marble Faun is seldom read today, it was the closest thing to a bestseller Hawthorne ever created. This status, however, conflicted with the opinions of scholars and critics during his time.   Hawthorne's detailed passages and descriptive narrative of Rome, Italy intrigued his readers.  But those descriptions were precisely what annoyed his critics.  It was even predicted by a New York Times reviewer that the novel would moderately serve as a tourist guidebook of Rome.  Millicent Bell writes in his The Marble Faun and the Waste of History (1999) "Modern critics have usually been dismissive of the work's travelogue aspect."  Bell's position, however, differs with that of many modern critics.  Hawthorne's extensive descriptions of squares, towers, museums, vineyards, cathedrals, catacombs, and hills serve a "poetic function" in helping us understand the novel and appreciate its allure.  Bells goes on the write:

The faun of Praxiteles
                         
                           Yet for a long time after 1860, when Hawthorne's romance was published, visitors
                           were likely to retrace his characters' itinerary. They would make directly for the
                           Capitoline Museum to see the statue referred to in Hawthorne's title and check out
                           those pointed ears, which are suspected, too, on the statue's lookalike, the young
                           Italian, Donatello. They would go into the catacombs of Saint Calixtus (where
                           Hawthorne's Americans first see the mysterious pursuer of their friend, the
                           Englishwoman Miriam), stop to identify "Hilda's Tower" in the Via dei Portoghesi,
                           or try to see the Beatrice Cenci in the Palazzo Barberini. (Bell)

For several decades, The Marble Faun brought to Rome both curious visitors and Hawthorne scholars.  Rome has even hosted conference on Hawthorne.  Reading The Marble Faun means to see, learn, and ponder the attractions of this city.  Consequentially, visiting, witnessing, and experiencing the historic attractions detailed by Hawthorne can become an essential part of reading the novel. 

      Modern technology has contributed to our understanding of the The Marble Faun.  Presently, travel mobility enables sightseers, scholars, and romantics to conveniently view for themselves the places described by Hawthorne.  But our increased ability to enjoy Rome's sights firsthand doesn't stop at modern aviation.  No, as subjects of the information age, we can embark on other forms of exploration as well.  This sight is dedicated to understanding The Marble Faun in as much a way as modern information will presently allow.  Of course we aren't without its limitations.  For will we ever be able to see the Virgin statue exactly as Hilda did in her tower?  Bell writes about the differences and challenges present day readers may have with experiencing Rome.  

                            Few besides Hawthorne scholars are likely to come to Rome with any intention
                            of repeating the touristic experience of his characters. Though most of the artworks
                            and monuments among which those imaginary visitors wandered have not moved
                            from their posts, they have become thoroughly familiar in an age of package-tours,
                            and the scene around them has changed a great deal.   (Bell)

 

The monuments Hawthorne devotes much attention to have a different allure and mystery to them then they had centuries before.  Our experience of them will differ from that of Hawthorne's characters and contemporaries.  However, our modern day limitations are not reasons for discouragement.  We have current methods of reviving and resurrecting "ivy, lichens, and wall-flowers" from the "Ruins."  The Marble Faun will continue to "grow" as a result of adding another layer of understanding and experience.

 

        Included in this sight are graphics, internet links, webcams, plot quiz, plot summary, images, and  bibliography.  All of these relevant features are aimed at a greater artistic, historic, and pedagogical understanding of this travelogue-murder romance.  Not everyone, however, sees the relevance of "excess" information.  One critic went so far as to say that the The Marble Faun's excessively detailed  passages "strike us like masses of undigested guide-book . . . descriptions and meditations, always graceful, and often of great beauty in themselves, but yet in a strict sense irrelevant."  Perhaps The Marble Faun will always face such discrimination, but it'll also always strive to grow out of ruin. Capitoline

Home              Plot  Summary                Plot  Quiz                  Bibliography                 Links