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Cook presents research on Hawthorne, short stories

Bill Cook, professor of English, spoke about Nathaniel Hawthorne in the President’s Dining Room on Monday. During the lecture, Cook thanked the faculty for a gift, the first edition of Hawthorne’s “Twice-Told Tales.”  He received this when he left his position as provost and vice president of academic affairs. / photo by Debora Escobar

Veronica Sepulveda
Staff Writer

Bill Cook, professor of English, discussed the research he gathered about the works of American fiction writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, and how Hawthorne contributed to the creation of the American short story, during his faculty lecture on Monday.

“I wrote my master’s thesis (at Lehigh University) on Hawthorne’s artistic theories, and in doing that I came to the realization that what Hawthorne was as a writer was an evolving craftsman.” Cook said.

Hawthorne knew he wanted to be a writer immediately after college, Cook explained, but there was no form of literature that dealt with deep short tales, there was no such thing as a short story.

Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe evolved the idea of the American short story. Hawthorne had to craft the art he was trying to produce and he began with his early works, called sketches, Cook said.

“He found a way to expand it into a rich tapestry of meaning and understanding,” Cook said.

After reading all 25 volumes of Hawthorne’s writings, along with everything Hawthorne has ever read, Cook addressed the questions that remained unanswered to him.

“Why did his art change?” Cook questioned. “How did he craft from the sketch to the romance tale to the novel? Why did he start the way he did and how did he evolve over time?”

Senior English major Lauren Brown had questions too.

“It never fails to intrigue me about not finding answers about human condition. There are always more questions than answers, no matter what author,” she said.

Cook found that after college, Hawthorne was deeply interested in the work of philosophers. He questioned and developed his own understanding of life, what he wanted to do with it, and how he would write about it.

Cook explained how there were several limitations to Hawthorne’s writing since he had been isolated from the real world for so long, and found that his sketches were unrealistic; In other words, they lacked qualities of experience and worldly affairs.

Hawthorne realized his limitations, and began writing about people he met and started to build a physical world so that he was confronted with having to deal with something other than speculation, Cook explained.

Cook continued with a description about two of Hawthorne’s early works, “Sites From the Steeples” and “Hollow of Three Hills.”

In “Sites From the Steeples,” Cook explains that hawthorne is not “imposing, and telling you, but rather the artist showing you… and you create the scene.”

Cook said these stories demonstrated the narration of Hawthorne and how he created this interesting sketch that captivated his readers. To conclude the lecture, Cook read a passage from one of Hawthorne’s most famous unfinished books, “Dr. Grimshaw’s Secret.”

“I am intrigued about the topic,” Innesa Ranchpar, Senior English major, said. “What better way to be educated on this topic than by someone who lived and breathed Hawthorne.”

Veronica Sepulveda can be reached at veronica.sepulveda@laverne.edu.

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