Adam Ochonicky, “‘A Better Civilization’ through Tourism: Cultural Appropriation in The Marble Faun” (pp. 221–237)
This essay argues that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun: Or, The Romance of Monte Beni (1860) is an attempt to situate the United States within a lineage of “great” nations via the depiction of tourism abroad in the nineteenth century. In The Marble Faun, Hawthorne suggests that the historical legacies of nations are dependent on the production of art objects, literature, and cultural sites that demonstrate the sophistication of a given national identity. As such, the novel’s narrative revolves around the experiences of a pair of American artists, Hilda and Kenyon, during their stay in Rome. Hawthorne continually emphasizes the duo’s remarkable skills as evaluators and copyists of Italian art in order to legitimize their—and, by proxy, the United States’—appropriation of Italy’s culture and historical stature. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne disparages the degraded state of then-contemporary Rome, while elevating the comparatively youthful United States as the rightful inheritor of Italy’s illustrious past. Essentially, by situating critical work on the nineteenth-century “realm of leisure” alongside twenty-first-century theories of tourism, this essay provides a framework for understanding the complex interconnections between transnational tourism and the development of American cultural identity in The Marble Faun.