Michel Despland

When Religion Becomes Literature and Literature Becomes Religion : Nathaniel Hawthorne

In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes his first novel, The Scarlet Letter. This novel recounts the adventures of a young woman living in Boston during the 1640’s. A single mother, she is sentenced to the pillory and becomes known for the scarlet letter A embroided on her breast. This work marvellously illustrates the redefinition of the frontiers between religion and literature operating in the 19th century. Hawthorne, through his novel, constructs an original rapport with the traditional religion (puritanism). Through the use of literature, he can make a sort of post-traditional religion available to his contemporaries.