Title

The ethics of single mothers and Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter

Document Type

Presentation

Publication Date

4-24-2009

Abstract

The Octuplet mom, Barack Obama raised by his single mother, or the popular show Gilmore Girls? Today there are countless media representations of single mothers working hard to manage their lives in difficult—and sometimes even hostile—environments, and among them all, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter is by far the most famous. But is Hawthorne’s novel relevant for a twenty-first century United States audience? In what ways does it still succeed in providing a usefully imaginative tool for critiquing the hypocrisies of society and for thinking through the ethical challenges of parenting? In what ways does it fail? At this week’s Friday Forum (4/24), Prof. Steven Thomas (English) will explore these questions by considering a wide range of cultural evidence: postmodern literary revisions of The Scarlet Letter, popular movies and television shows about single mothers, census and sociological data, and legislation on family benefits and welfare.

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