Chimney,  by Josette Urso, New York, NY
"Chimney" by Josette Urso
© Josette Urso, New York, NY

excerpts from marc's dissertation

What follows is the Table of Contents and a brief selection from Marc Penka's doctoral dissertation, published by the University of Minnesota. The entire work will soon be available for downloading upon request.

"The Deep Taint of His Nature: Uncanny Allegory, and Mr. Hawthorne's Gothic"

2002 by Marc Penka

Are we finally ready to understand what Melville saw as "Hawthorne?" Casting his eye into the deep of the century, just half done, he had found a voice and a story to shadow us forever. He had found a strategy, as well; he wrote a parable of a history that was itself a sea of parables; a tide of stories surging into the ephemeral articulation of each individual wave, each being (the stuff of water) crossed with the force of a planet. The force of stories reaches up into Queequeg's hieroglyphic skin (unreadable!), and somewhere in the deep, unknown even to itself, rides the ineffable story-splitting, story-shedding heart of it; beast and signifier; more than what we are. And he dedicates that book to Hawthorne.

All of his life, Melville saw, mediately before him, what the humans who shared his same lit day could not, and thus he saw time, and thus he was alone (of course there were others, also alone). What force of movement, of the planet itself, rendering "Hawthorne," unreadable even to James, had Melville seen? He saw the heart of the transcendentalists haunted by a machine that no-one could yet run (that no-one could use to run them) for more than a century, but that still ran, unreflected, ineffable; his whale, slipping through the wrack of creation, of conquest and the new.
("Running," Chap. 3)


Introduction: In This House That I Call Home
Enemy Ancestors - Concord - The Stages of Nature -
Hawthorne, Beyond the Pleasure Principle - Home

Chapter 1: A Babel in the Twilight of the Universe
Melting the Sand-Polishing the Glass-Interregnum-
Blacking the Parabola-Slipping on the Glass

Chapter 2: "Roger Malvin's Burial"
Running-The Predicament-Trans/--/Opening/--/Mission-
Trans/Parent-Earth-Bourne's Crypt (of the Summer Night Drive-In)-
Prayer-Displacement Replaced-Character and Intent--Passage
Chapter 3: Gothic
Strawberry Hill Gothic-Otranto-Nature-"Rappaccini's Daughter-

Chapter 4: Time and Signification: On Allegory
Benjamin and the Dynamic of Allegory-"The Birth-Mark"-
Representation and the Syntax of Character-Auerbach's Picture Gallery-
The Uncanny Interior-In the Zone of Transitional Retroactivity
Conclusion: Sublime
The Sublime Object of My Dissertation - "To Hold Infinity in the Palm of Your Hand" - Hegel - Derrida kicks down a door that's already open, or Lacanians can prove that you're not only wrong, but that they also said it first. - Three Slovenian Jokes - "Absolute Knowing" - "The Gothic Sublime"
Concluding Conclusion: Six Speculative Essays
a. A Discreet Suggestion For My Betters
b. Terror (the free-play of the signifier, pt. 1)
c. Stars, Polished by the Constellations into Mirrors: The Last Word on Nathaniel Hawthorne
d. Spatial Play 8the free-play of the signifier pt. 2)
e. Gothic
f. In the Age of Surveillance
Key to Abbreviations for Works Cited & Bibliography



In this House that I Call Home

"...in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God--so, better it is to perish in that howling infinite, than be ingloriously dashed upon the lee..."
(Herman Melville, Moby Dick)

1: Enemy Ancestors
There is something about living in America that compels people to talk about ghosts. The Navajo, discovering ruins in northern Arizona that predated them for centuries, named the former occupants of their land Anasazi, "enemy ancestors." However, the indigenous peoples were both haunted and cradled here, whereas their European conquerors were to find themselves damned. The genocidal edge of conquest, that swept a continent clear of its reflection, forever foreclosed the possibility of a new national symbolic that was not already cursed into allegory, and inscribed a map of European culture upon a strangeness. Their languages, stretched across this hollow place, formed a skin with two sides that resounded like a drum; meaning disseminated in backcoiling doubling folds, ironic at the source.
Everywhere this is a culture of horror, from the banality of its nationalisms to the magnificence of its church walls, and the adornments of those walls, and the music of its worship; its passion is war, and its beauty the infinitely encrusted artifice of death's articulation. This Europe builds through encryption, from its maps, to its missionaries; "winning souls for Jesus" through the agency of plague. Everywhere, this culture of horror is horrified; its relation to its own reflection is uncannny.

2: Concord In New England, over a century after the indigenous peoples had been exterminated with an efficiency that was probably never again attained in the New World, nature was being reclaimed as the root and referent of a self-conscious literary project adumbrated by Emerson, assayed by Thoreau, awaiting Whitman.
Whitman would take this reclaimed ground named Concord and build from it the symbol of a unified national body that was itself the natural body of a continent. And this symbolic body, though many, was one; now finally ready to give meaning to the name "America," for now that name had a nature, and an explanation of its connection to that nature. The continent was sutured to the name through the symbol of its own ubiquitous grass.
But in the midst of this ringing circular unity one voice haunted the possibility of a European presence that was found and founded on a new land, for this land had been polished to a mirror, and this presence was already in reflection. Nathaniel Hawthorne performed transcendentalist "nature" as a vacated stage; a garden, decorated in ruin. His deployment of ruin as the writing of American space proceeds along two fronts: it simultaneously asserts the relation of the "new" American subject to 18th and 19th Century romantic idealism as it was articulated in Europe, and stages that idealism as decrepit, by shifting the register of its representation from Romantic to romance.

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