/The Spectacle of Reform: Theater and Prison in Hawthorne's <i>Blithedale Romance</i>

Jennifer Greiman

in Democracy's Spectacle

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780823230990
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823241156 | DOI:

Series: American Literatures Initiative

/The Spectacle of Reform: Theater and Prison in Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance

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Chattel slavery provided a model of lawful violence, against which other forms of exceptional penalty — capital punishment, solitary confinement — operated in the United States in the early decades of the nineteenth century. As the penal system learned from slavery, so reform movements in general began to partake of the rhetoric and practices of penitentiary reform, particularly insofar as sentiment and sympathy produced a kind of lingua franca for reform, shaping debates about technologies of punishment along with those on abolition, temperance, public education, and any number of reformist efforts. The condition staged in The Blithedale Romance is a crisis of empowerment in a society organized as both democratic and sovereign. The mimetic relations instituted at Blithedale involve them in enactments of sovereignty that produce what Tocqueville calls “a stranger among us.”

Keywords: chattel slavery; punishment; violence; penitentiary reform; penal system; Hawthorne; The Blithedale Romance; sovereignty

Chapter.  15118 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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