". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“My Kinsman, Major Molineux”

By Nathaniel Hawthorne, who, as a human being, due to his attitudes about slavery, as opposed to the excellence that he is as an author, feels more creepy as time goes on.

Anyway a citation and quotes from the story are going into The American Slave Coast in the pre-Revolutionary colonial sections.

el V doesn't know from Hawthorne, but at dinner last night (meaning dinner at the dining table in our dining room, not out -- it was already storming -- but we do dine by candlelight -- why not?) while discussing what we're learning about the Boston colonial mobs -- North Boston Mob and South Boston Mob -- how then they were run in the pre-Revolutionary era by the Loyal Nine, which then got folded in Independence times into the Sons of Liberty -- I began talking of this story, and also "Howe's Masquerade."

"Molineux" is set during the fevered anti-British feelings of the 1730's, during which the Mobs riot and parade, while "Howe" is during the Revolutionary siege of Boston, then occupied by the Brits. We thought references to these stories would help liven up our narrative of these times. We try to sprinkle such references from American lit through the text as we do music; for one thing, most histories don't do that.

We both love this sentence from "Howe" --

"The brilliantly lighted apartments were thronged with figures that seemed to have stepped from the dark canvass of historic portraits, or to have flitted forth from the magic pages of romance, or at least to have flown hither from one of the London theatres, without a change of garments."

Boston, unlike the other major cities of the day did not have a theater (which may be why they had so much Mob action in their streets -- public performance in public spaces where all the Motley can come together?) so yes, theatrical figures would have to be imported from elsewhere. It seems to me, thinking about this sentence now that Hawthorne was being most sly by referencing the London theater rather than one from New York or Philadelphia, in this time of British occupation of Boston in the Revolutionary War.

Yes, writers frequently have fun while writing. I enjoy identifying places in the text where a writer is having fun such as this -- which is perfect.  Perfect meaning the opposite of how inferior writers have fun, which is in your face, demanding your admiration, supposedly smart, witty, comic and perceptive, but instead it's coy and / or thudly.  This one sentence of Hawthorne's in this story is subtle in its slyness.  It matters not at all to Hawthorne or the reader that the reader know Boston had no theaters at this time (unless the Brits arranged to have one ... hmmm).  Hawthorne knew the history of public theater's absence in Boston, and that is what matters -- which knowing he knows adds a soupçon of new pleasure my reading of Hawthorne.

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