Reading literature rhetorically in education: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Prison-Door’ as an exercise in close reading

Magnus Ullén


Despite the many historical links between literature and rhetoric, teachers of literature have made relatively few attempts to draw on rhetoric for teaching purposes. The present article suggests how this may be done, and argues for the pedagogical benefits of taking a rhetorical approach to literature. By means of a close reading of the first chapter of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, I demonstrate how a text may be systematically explored through the five steps (partes) of the classical rhetorical process. In conclusion, it suggests that rhetoric may be a means to bridge the gap between the many facets of English as a second language subject, as rhetoric provides a holistic framework allowing us to study literature and culture as language, and vice versa.


rhetoric; literature; English education; Hawthorne

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