By John Gatta
This article explores a remarkable if not likely undercurrent of curiosity in Mary as legendary Madonna, that has persevered in American lifestyles and letters from really early within the nineteenth century into the later twentieth. This ingenious involvement with the Divine girl - verging from time to time on devotional homage - is principally fascinating as manifested within the Protestant writers who're the focal point of this examine: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Harold Frederic, Henry Adams, and T.S. Eliot. the writer argues that flirtation with the Marian cultus provided Protestant writers symbolic repayment for what can be culturally clinically determined as a deficiency of psychic feminity, or "anima" in the United States. He argues that the literary configurations of the legendary Madonna show a subsurface cultural resistance to the existing rationalism and pragmatism of the yank brain in an age of entrepreneurial conquest.
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Additional info for American Madonna: Images of the Divine Woman in Literary Culture
Such, at least, are the figures they trace through Coverdale's fevered male imagination as narrator. Yet in this case the mostly pre-Christian Madonna recalled from archetypal memory bears the dual identity not so much of virgin and mother as of virgin and queen. In this bifurcated scheme, Priscilla, of course, fills the role of virgin. She is the shrinking maiden, the innocent who pales by comparison with her vibrant and voluptuous half-sister, Zenobia. Not only Priscilla's "virgin reserve and sanctity of soul" (3:203) but also her "Sibylline attributes" (2) seem to set her beyond the normal limits of space, time, and corporal solidity.
It likewise expresses Zenobia's singularity, her naturally aristocratic stature as "the freshest and rosiest woman of a thousand" (46). More than that, Hawthorne's insistence on the potency and rare magnificence of this woman points toward the supernatural sovereignty long attributed to the Goddess. Paralleling the natural tendency to conflate earthly monarchy with divinity, the impulse to associate female avatars with the title "Queen of Heaven" originated with primordial Near Eastern rituals that incorporated throne and coronation imagery and that persisted in ancient venerations of Isis, Astarte, Ceres, and Venus.
Short of finding this new apostle, and unable to embrace Europe's culture and religion as his own, Hawthorne saw no choice but to return to America, where he was left with his Hilda-like Sophia and a religion of womanly domesticity to support what faith remained to him toward the close of his career. The prospect was scarcely encouraging. Hilda had looked everywhere for "a face of celestial beauty, but human as well as heavenly, and with the shadow of past grief upon it; bright with immortal youth, yet matronly and motherly; and endowed with a queenly dignity, but infinitely tender, as the highest and deepest attribute of her divinity" (4:348).