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A Passion for Getting It Right

Essays and Appreciations in Honor of Michael J. Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching

Edited By Carol M. Bensick

For 50 years Michael J. Colacurcio has been a leader in the criticism of early and antebellum American literature. In The Province of Piety, New Essays on The Scarlet Letter, Doctrine and Difference, and Godly Letters, as well as editions and often-reprinted reviews and essays, Dr. Colacurcio has continued to defend a rare vision of the political and intellectual depth of America’s serious fiction and the aesthetic power and charm of its religious poetry and prose. In light of many honors such as the Book of the Year Award from the Conference of Christianity and Literature and election in 2007 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, UCLA raised him to the rank of Distinguished Professor. Yet for all his dedication to research, his students know him as an unforgettable teacher, who has continued to win several teaching awards at both Cornell and UCLA. The present volume aspires to celebrate Dr. Colacurcio’s 50 years of transformative teaching through an exciting bounty of original and classic essays by some of his most talented students and eminent colleagues from his very first years at Cornell up to and including his current students at UCLA.
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Hawthorne’s Doctor Experiments: Medicine, Risk Culture, and the Development of Psychological Realism



“Perhaps these tales are trying to force us to learn something. And once we recover from the shock to our literary sensibility, we might come to like that fact.”1

—Michael J. Colacurcio, “‘Certain Circumstances’: Hawthorne and the Interest of History”

“Risk is the sensation of the normal under conditions of emergency.”2

—Joseph Fichtelberg, Risk Culture

This account approaches Nathaniel Hawthorne’s historicism through the writer’s interest in professional legitimacy in the medical field, and examines his frequent reliance, over the course of his career, on using doctors to catalyze his psychologically realistic plots and historical arguments. Hawthorne’s representations of doctors have often been seen as part of a general mistrust, on the author’s part, of science,3 and incidental to his broader interests. In fact these representations of medical professionals are best read as integral components of his historical vision,4 including some of his arguments about the Puritans. More importantly, they are fundamental to his “risky” experiments in what we now might call, albeit anachronistically, psychological realism. In Hawthorne’s writing, the medical field serves as a representative model for society’s struggle with risk and innovation in cultural production. To trace the changing role of several important doctor characters across the arc of Hawthorne’s career—from the underappreciated early tale “The Haunted Quack” (1831), about a quack-doctor who is psychologically traumatized because he does not have a license to kill “professionally...

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