実用性の彼岸 : 1820年代の大学論争とFanshawe
Going Beyond Usefulness: The Dispute over College Education in the 1820s Seen through the Lens of Fanshawe
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Fanshawe (1828) has its main setting in a college eighty years ago. The novel, however, has been categorized as either sentimental novel or melodrama, and the background of the story has received little scholarly attention. Hence, this paper tries to interpret the work as a college novel with the time lag in mind.
When Hawthorne wrote the novel in the 1820s, the economy was booming and anti-intellectualism became rampant. Under such conditions, the public demanded that a higher education should be more useful, criticizing classical studies such as Latin and Greek for being useless. We can see typical responses of colleges to the criticism in the reports written by the faculties of Amherst and Yale. The Amherst Report of 1827 accommodated itself to the public need, and tried to fill the gap between academia and civic society by omitting Greek and Latin from graduation requirements. The Yale report of 1828, on the other hand, asserted that the traditional college education was practical and maintained the old curriculum.
At the present moment of narration in Fanshawe, Harley College is isolated from the world by the“ walls of a seminary of learning.” Moreover, the public values college graduates from the viewpoint of utility while not caring about their lack of theoretical knowledge. The evaluation criterion as well as the gulf between town and college community share the social context on which this college dispute in the 1820s was based. The college of old times is also depicted as an ivory tower. Scholars and neighborhood inhabitants are divided into two different groups. The division seems to reflect one in the 1820s.
The characters, however, don’t rely on the notion of utility as the Amherst and Yale Reports emphasized. Two students, Edward and Fanshawe, become more conscious of community after they perceive a kidnapper of their friend Ellen as an outsider. Edward shares a sense of “kindred” spirit with Hugh, who is the owner of a tavern, by the common topic of poetry and sharing the fun of improvising songs. His attitude looks similar to the Amherst Report’s, in that he seeks to communicate with the general public. Yet while the Amherst Report acts on the public urge to be useful, Edward tries to find common ground. His behavior shows the possibility of establishing kinship ties with an inhabitant by discovering that they have something in common.
In Fanshawe’s case, community appears as a result of more abstract thinking. He realizes, through Ellen, that there are“ ties” which unite different individuals. In other words, he abstracts the concept of communion from his own experience; his attitude is nothing short of a scholar’s. He returns back to his isolation after saving Ellen, which reminds us of the conservative mindset of the Yale Report. The Report and the character of Fanshawe, however, take contrasting approaches in maintaining this isolation. The Report borrows the populist notion of utility, whereas Fanshawe sticks to the scholastic way of contemplation. His attitude tells us that a scholar could feel in touch with community through his or her academic pursuits.
We must not ignore the point that Edward’s and Fanshawe’s sense of community was built in reaction to the intrusion of an outsider. Furthermore, the existence of the “walls of a seminary of learning,” eighty years after the sequence of events, imply that those students’ struggles were not enough to change the division between academia and civic community. Even so, one thing is certain; both students reached the state of realizing some kind of community, which not only binds different individuals together but also lies beneath the divided cultures. Turning now to the present state of affairs in our country, there is an increasing demand for usefulness and practicality in higher education. Even in this predicament, we could see rays of hope in Edward’s experiential and Fanshawe’s academic approaches in getting in touch with their community.
本稿は，2017年10月14日に鹿児島大学郡元キャンパスで開催された日本アメリカ文学会第56回全国大会における口頭発表原稿「大学は役に立つのか？――Nathaniel Hawthorne のFanshaweにおける学知と世間知」に大幅な加筆修正を施したものである。本研究は，平成27年度科学研究費助成事業（課題番号15K12857）による援助を受けている。
Hiroshima studies in English language and literature
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Graduate School of Letters