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[In]toxic[ating] Bodies: Spirits and Spectral Biopolitics in The House of the Seven Gables

Emelia Abbé Robertson


In this article I apply the theme of obsession, and its psychological aspects in particular, to Hawthorne’s preoccupation with drink and intoxication. I aim to unpack the often-messy entanglements between alcohol, toxicity, and subjectivity in Hawthorne’s fiction. Using The House of the Seven Gables as a case study, I argue that Hawthorne’s link between intoxication and toxic materials is less a means of critiquing the political and institutional systems at work in his moment, than a way to interrogate a particular narrative of American history. Hawthorne’s depictions of toxic and intoxicating bodies are bound up in the ongoing discourse of “civilizing” processes unfolding in a relatively new nation—processes that determine which lives are productive, valuable, and essential, and which are “extraneous,” as Colin Dayan puts it. From Matthew Maule’s execution to Clifford Pyncheon’s incarceration, Hawthorne deploys the language of intoxication and toxicity to suggest that persons or bodies who do not neatly fit into America’s sense of teleological progress are viewed as infectious, poisonous, noxious, and otherwise threatening.

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1In the spring of 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne frequented Parker’s tavern in Boston. Over the course of his visits, which are recorded in his American Notebooks, he took note of a “ragamuffin” who would pace along the sidewalk in front of the establishment. The figure must have captured Hawthorne’s imagination, as the writer composed a portrait of the man that is at once grotesque and poetic. He describes the “elderly ragamuffin” as having “a more than shabby general aspect,” made all the more striking by an eyepatch nearly falling from an emaciated face—in a state of “decay (perhaps by dint of too frequent visits at Parker’s bar), he haunts about the place, as a ghost haunts the spot where he was murdered” (157). In this vignette, Hawthorne triangulates his ongoing interest in spirits—both spectral and alcoholic—with the close relationship between intoxication and toxicity as he has written it on the body of the “ragamuffin.” The physical markers of disability and poverty which characterize the elderly man’s appearance, for Hawthorne, render him a spectral presence. Rather than a full participant of the goings-on in Parker’s shop, he has been relegated, by his habitual drunkenness and intoxication, and thus his dependence upon charity to drink, to a “haunt.” Despite the figure’s abject visage and propensity to drink, however, Hawthorne recognizes some measure of dignity in the man: “there is a sort of shadow or delusion of respectability about him, and a sobriety too, and a kind of decency in his groggy and red-nosed destitution” (158). Though reduced to a specter of his former “respectability” and “decency,” he demands attention.

2A year after his encounter with the “ragamuffin,” Hawthorne, in The House of the Seven Gables, seems to extend his reflections on the scene, musing, “[p]ersons who have wandered, or been expelled, out of the common track of things… desire nothing so much as to be led back. They shiver in their loneliness” (153). While this assertion is made in reference to the woeful Clifford Pyncheon, it reads as though it were written for the ghostly ragamuffin, who, in “haunting” Parker’s tavern sought to be “[brought] back into the breathing world” by anyone willing to spot him “a glass of liquor at the bar” (Gables 153; American Notebooks 158). This narrative continuity between the Notebooks and Gables points to Hawthorne’s fascination with the delicate bodily boundaries between intoxication and toxicity, human body and human subject, life and death. In the case of both the elderly specter who “haunts about” Parker’s tavern, and the “material ghost” that is Clifford Pyncheon (Gables 115), Hawthorne depicts the diminution of a human subject—an agent in the civil, legal, and market forces of American society—to a specter, and made toxic to the health of that society through addiction or incarceration. However, the potential for each character to return to “the breathing world” suggests that Hawthorne’s view of human subjectivity is not bound to classical markers of liberal politics, like teleological progress or cultivation to be found in possession of landed property or accumulation of wealth.

3In Gables, Hawthorne describes many of his characters as straddling the boundaries between life and death—living or “material” ghosts, specters, or memories which threaten to infect, poison, or harm. Relegated to this in-betweenness under duress, they are persons un-made by sinister processes of the law, the market, and national progress. In this article I use The House of the Seven Gables as a case study of what I call Hawthorne’s spectral biopolitics. Hawthorne’s is, I argue, a view of the human subject that not only calls into question the governing logics of the American state in determining “those who are worthy of living” (Foucault, Society 255), and thus participants in property ownership, market productivity, and legal protection, but also carries with it the potential for redress and reparation on the part of those deemed toxic, threatening, or otherwise inhuman by those same logics. For Hawthorne, and his “material ghosts,” human subjectivity, and thus the right to human dignity, is an obsession which can only be speculatively attained in fiction—where dignity and agency are not bound to the biopower of the modern state.

4In his 1978 and 1979 lectures at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault asserts that the rise of liberal government provokes the question of how subjects are to be governed if they are both legal persons and living beings (317). The broader framework of Foucauldian biopolitics and racialized violence approaches the modern state as reorienting power toward a biological relationship where “the death of the other, the death of the… inferior race (or the degenerate, or the abnormal)” promises both safety and purity for the population (255). Hawthorne’s sense, though, of the legal/living distinction is intertwined with the “death of the other” under the constraints of law and market. Scholars like Michael Demson, for instance, have drawn connections between Hawthorne’s short fiction and the biopolitics of capitalism, but Hawthorne’s extensive interest in what constitutes human subjectivity considers the various forces informing the notion of American political progress more broadly. In the world of The House of the Seven Gables, as in Hawthorne’s real world, the biopower of the American state is determined by overlapping and complimentary forces of political liberalism, namely property, law, and market.

5Scholars of nineteenth-century American literature and culture have sought to unravel these entanglements in dynamic ways. Colin Dayan, for one, interrogates the “spirit of the law” in making and unmaking persons. Dayan traces a lineage of “negative personhood,” wherein the law reconfigures the person into the “depersonalized” in the forms of animals, criminals, detainees, and the enslaved: “Disfigured as persons, they are judged outside the law’s protection or most susceptible to its violence” (xiv). In this framework, the punitory rituals of the law become “rituals of banishment” that function to “dispose of the stigmatized” (16). Depersonalized and extraneous lives, then, must needs be cleansed for the health of the body politic. In a similar vein, Chad Luck takes up this link between embodiment and subjectivity, and applies it to shifting views of property ownership in the nineteenth-century United States. Luck tracks a “phenomenology of possession” across antebellum writers who “chart the complex emotional configurations that link persons to things—what does it feel like… to fear the imminent theft of the only property you own—but they also attend to the sensory experiences… that produce a feeling of ownership” (9). Property ownership is thus intertwined with the lived, bodily experience of the human subject. The possibility of dispossession threatens to enact the dissolution of that subjectivity.

6The House of the Seven Gables is populated by beings who are depicted as “depersonalized” and “dispossessed” of their agency through myriad legal rituals, property disputes, and market forces—a compacted critique, I argue, of the progression of America’s own political liberalism. Indeed, Hawthorne’s diverse characters in Gables are persons un-made and reconfigured into “material ghosts” by processes of incarceration, dispossession, and destitution. Furthermore, these ghostly figures, in being exiled from “the breathing world,” are rendered toxic through the rhetorics of disability, disease, or degeneracy. However, despite their associations with contagion, infection, and toxin, Hawthorne’s spectral beings are the characters to whom belong redress, revenge, and reparation against the powers that un-make their personhood. Thus, spectral biopolitics in Gables can be read as a model of radical resistance and freedom. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the adjective form of “spectral” is defined by two reciprocal senses: “ghostly, unsubstantial, unreal” and “capable of seeing specters.” This reciprocity, the ability of subjects to see specters, is a key component in the biopolitical framework in Gables. Recognition of un-made or extraneous beings by persons who are deemed “worthy of living” under the rubrics of law and market gives Hawthorne’s “material ghosts” a pathway by which to exercise some level of agency and influence in the “breathing world.”

7The opportunities presented by this spectral reciprocity are, for Hawthorne, necessarily entwined with the genre of the gothic romance in antebellum literature. In his preface to Gables, Hawthorne asserts, “[t]he [novel’s] form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience. The [romance]… has fairly a right to present that truth under the circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer’s own choosing or creation” (iii). For Hawthorne, the generic hallmark of the romance is a break with the representation of business as usual, where, as Brook Thomas suggests, “the novel presents the probable at the expense of the possible… the romance, by providing a glimpse of a better world, reminds the reader that a significantly ordered structure does not inhere in society but results from human effort” (195). Genre, then, is a tool. The formal flexibility of the romance makes space, not only for hauntings, but for those hauntings to be collectively recognized by living persons who might be able to help resolve a spirit’s unfinished business.

8In the case of Gables, Hawthorne’s spectral spirits—toxic, infecting, and contagious haunts—are made legible through intoxication by alcoholic spirits. Toxicity and intoxication each depends upon the other. Throughout Gables, supernatural and spectral elements are closely aligned with alcohol. Indeed, scholars such as Klaus Stitch have surveyed, in detail, Hawthorne’s obsession with the intersections between inebriation and altered modes of perceiving. I look to extend this discourse by suggesting that the radical potential of Hawthorne’s “material ghosts” in the romance to seek redress, enact revenge, or achieve reconciliation requires a romantic reorientation to the sinister forces which un-make persons in antebellum America. Partaking of alcohol allows subjects to recognize their spectral counterparts, to open themselves up to alternate ways of perceiving the systems and institutions in which both specter and subject are implicated, and to welcome the spectral back to “the breathing world.” To track the ways in which spectral biopolitics works in the novel itself—the ways it collapses toxic and intoxicated, life and death, toward freedom and resistance—in this article I analyze three specific character arcs: the contrived dispossession of Matthew Maule by Colonel Pyncheon, Hepzibah Pyncheon’s entrance into the free market, and the unjust incarceration of Clifford Pyncheon by Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon alongside the latter’s death at the novel’s end.

9The House of the Seven Gables opens with the catalyzing event of “the wizard” Matthew Maule’s dispossession and subsequent execution at the command of Colonel Pyncheon. The initial conflict between the two men is a property dispute driven by the Colonel’s almost obsessive fixation on Maule’s plot of land as an ideal situation upon which to build a familial legacy. Maule is characterized as “an obscure man,” and the only signs of human cultivation on his parcel are a well and a “hut, shaggy with thatch” (11). The Colonel, “a prominent and powerful personage,” is driven by a desire to ensure the security and wellness of his posterity (11). Ever forward-facing, he is an aggressive and overbearing representative of liberal progress defined by property acquisition. He is the personification of “the dangers of unbridled acquisition” (Luck 99). In his efforts to secure Maule’s parcel of land, the Colonel leverages his social influence into Maule’s criminalization:

Old Matthew Maule… was executed for the crime of witchcraft…. But, in the after days… it was remembered how loudly Colonel Pyncheon had joined in the general cry, to purge the land from witchcraft…. [The victim] declared himself hunted to death for his spoil. At the moment of execution—with the halter about his neck… Maule had addressed him from the scaffold…. ‘God,’ said the dying man… ‘God will give him blood to drink!’ (12-13)

10The Colonel’s successful acquisition of the plot hinges on Maule’s death, which must necessarily be justified in terms of preserving the safety and security of the population via the death of “the other,” in Foucauldian terms. As such, the Colonel’s first step is to deem Maule a threat—to recast him as non-human. Declared guilty of witchcraft, Maule is at once made a criminal, an animal, and a contaminant. The various terms used in this scene to describe the man are all distinctly inhuman. He is an animal, “hunted to death” and confined to the gallows by the “halter.” He is a contagion, a toxin that must be “purged from the land.” He is a felon, guilty of the “crime of witchcraft.” After he is dispossessed and rendered unhuman before the law, Maule’s death is made justifiable.

11Despite this injury, though, Hawthorne does not leave Maule without recourse. His curse, hurled from the gallows as he, himself, is suffocating, becomes his spectral foothold in the “breathing world.” Following Maule’s execution, Colonel Pyncheon erects the ancestral House of the Seven Gables; the Pyncheon home “would include the home of the dead and buried wizard, and would thus afford the ghost of the latter a kind of privilege to haunt its new apartments… infect[ing] them early with the scent of an old and melancholy house” (13). After his death, Maule’s toxic and “infecting” presence permeates the Pyncheon home. His is a spectral presence with the power to exact vengeance against the man and the systems which were his undoing. Indeed, once the Pyncheon mansion is erected, the narrator recounts an elemental change in Maule’s well, musing, “it was an ominous fact that… the spring of water… entirely lost… its pristine quality…. [T]he water of Maule’s Well… grew hard and brackish…. productive of intestinal mischief” (14). By some magic, the very property wrested from Maule is made toxic and noxious—the ground water turned poisonous as a condemnation of the Colonel’s fixation on cultivating the land for the sake of his own status.

12The threat of Maule’s spectral body extends beyond the change in the well, and goes so far as to target the Colonel’s body, specifically, with fierce vehemence. Once the house is erected, the Colonel hosts a lavish party to celebrate his successful acquisition, where “ale, cider, wine, and brandy, in copious effusion” are on offer, along with a rich and plentiful table (14). As the guests arrive and are ushered into the various rooms of the mansion by household servants, Colonel Pyncheon’s absence from the party is noticed by some of his more honored guests (both the high-sheriff of the county and the lieutenant governor), who make their way into the parlor of the house to find the Colonel in “an unnatural distortion”:

There was blood on his ruff, and… his hoary beard was saturated with it…. Dead in his new house! There is a tradition—only worth alluding to, as lending a tinge of superstitious awe to a scene, perhaps gloomy enough without it—that a voice spoke loudly among the guests, the tones of which were like those of old Matthew Maule, the executed wizard:—‘God hath given him blood to drink!’ (18)

13In this moment, the various strands making up Gables’ spectral biopolitics are woven together. Maule’s ghost, a spectral being, is able to exercise agency in “the breathing world”; he enacts revenge against a person with considerable social and political influence who was otherwise untouchable by Maule. Once relegated to the realm of the spectral, Maule’s ghost is given an opportunity unavailable to the human Maule—to infect and poison the property that was wrongfully seized from him. More importantly, this moment of vengeance is made perceptible as such to the Colonel’s guests. Hawthorne collapses spirits with spirits here. As the various visitors to the home are imbibing the “ale, cider, wine, and brandy in copious effusion” to the point of intoxication, those same visitors attest to hearing Maule’s voice reiterating the blood-curse thrown at the Colonel from the gallows. Regardless of the narrator’s seemingly flippant remark that Maule’s voice is merely the result of “superstitious awe,” Hawthorne’s interest in alcohol’s ability to bring about different modes of thinking or alternative orientations to one’s experience, coupled with the reciprocity required of spectral biopolitics, suggests that Maule’s voice actually was heard by those in attendance—that the Colonel’s death was caused by the curse and was a moment of retribution for Maule’s dispossession. Alcoholic spirits make the reparative possibilities of spectral spirits more palpable and palatable.

14As Gables progresses, descendants of Colonel Pyncheon and Matthew Maule are forced to negotiate similar dynamics as they face the influence of legal and market forces. The siblings, Clifford and Hepzibah, are the stalwart possessors of the ancestral Pyncheon home in spite of multiple encroaching threats to their ownership—threats which, ultimately, work to undermine and unmake their claims to the dwelling. For instance, Hepzibah, in the long absence of her brother, is responsible for the property, and as the family finances fall into a ruinous state, she is thrust into the free market. However, though Hepzibah attempts to make ends meet by opening up a shop in the house’s lower levels, her efforts prove disastrous. She has been so long sequestered from participating in the marketplace due to her adamant belief in her own aristocratic superiority that she is “unsubstantial, like the teasing phantasms of a half-conscious slumber” (75). Indeed, she is more often described as decaying matter than as a person. At multiple points in the narrative the narrator calls her “gaunt, sallow, rusty-jointed” as though she were an automaton fallen into disrepair (47). Isolated within the walls of the house, Hepzibah is confronted by “the sad confusion… when the spirit flits away into the past… or steps across the spaceless boundary betwixt its own region and the actual world…. It is like death, without death’s quiet privilege,—its freedom from mortal care” (75). She is, by virtue of her reclusive nature and her inability to successfully navigate the free market, reduced to a less-than-human being. This is, furthermore, compounded by her status as a spinster. As Christopher Castiglia has argued, “in gothic literature, the un(re)productive, denied the integrity of the fully human, are associated with the particularities of their bodies, their speech, or their individual histories… the un(re)productive [are] outside the movements of history” (192). Her lack of productivity in capitalist terms is amplified by her lack of reproductivity, and Hepzibah exists beyond the pale of progress. She becomes a spectral presence within the house—“the immemorial lady,” reduced by “the fluctuating waves” of a country that does not care for her (45).

15A specter of the old Pyncheon nobility, Hepzibah’s restorative moment arrives with her young cousin, Phoebe Pyncheon. Youthful and industrious, Phoebe is everything that Hepzibah is not. However, it is her ability to improve the shop’s productivity in terms of profit that allows Hepzibah some level of reparation despite her relegation to the category of the spectral by the market’s demand for production. The narrator tells us, “[i]t is a very genuine admiration, that with which persons too shy or too awkward to take a due part in the bustling world regard the real actors in life’s stirring scenes” (88). Phoebe, by virtue of her business acumen, is dubbed a “real actor” as opposed to Hepzibah, whose removal from “the bustling world” demarcates her as not one. Yet, for all the dissonance between her material body and her engagement in the wide world around her, Phoebe provides a way for Hepzibah to rejoin the “breathing world” of “real actors.” Interestingly, Hawthorne again invokes alcoholic spirits as a means by which to bridge the gap between spectral being and human subject. As Phoebe begins to implement strategic changes to Hepzibah’s shop, she persuades the elder woman the she should “manufacture yeast, both liquid and in cakes; and should brew a certain kind of beer, nectareous to the palate, and of rare stomachic virtues” (89). Here, intoxication is a medicinal remedy. It is a restorative measure by which Phoebe opens up the possibility of new and reliable revenue by customers who had previously belittled Hepzibah for failing to provide “ginger-beer… or any drink of a similar brewage, and, obtaining nothing of the kind, went off in an exceedingly bad humor” (61). By recognizing the spectral Hepzibah’s struggle to reintroduce herself into the material, market-driven world, Phoebe envisions alternate modes of being in that world for her elder cousin—where Hepzibah is accruing both wealth and reinstituting familial ties across generations. Thus, Phoebe takes charge of the cent-shop on behalf of Hepzibah, and in doing so, gives the older woman the flexibility and freedom to refocus her attention on the restoration of her brother, Clifford, into the “breathing world” alongside her.

16In many ways, Clifford Pyncheon’s narrative arc mirrors that of Matthew Maule’s. As the inheritor of the House of the Seven Gables, Clifford is presumed by his cousin, Judge Pyncheon, to also hold knowledge about a long-lost deed that would entitle the family to a sizable tract of land in Maine. The Judge’s insistence on acquiring the deed closely echoes the ancestral Colonel’s determination to oust Maule. In a similarly violent and cruel attempt to dispossess his cousins of the deed, the Judge has Clifford incarcerated for three decades on false charges of murder. In doing so, Clifford, like Maule, is deprived of his subjectivity. He is a person un-made through the insidious processes of criminalization and incarceration. Indeed, when he finally returns to the ancestral home, he is described as “faded away out of his place… his mind and consciousness took their departure, leaving his wasted, gray, and melancholy figure,—a substantial emptiness, a material ghost” (115). Though Clifford has not been condemned to die, the language which characterizes him is decidedly un-human, and much of the discourse that surrounds him, even prior to his homecoming, suggests that his criminal incarceration has transmuted him into something “other.” When Phoebe, for instance, learns that Clifford is alive, she is perplexed, and asks Hepzibah, “but has he not been a long while dead?” To which Hepzibah responds, “Perhaps he has… but in old houses like this, you know dead people are very apt to come back again” (85). Clifford, then, is a specter, a haunt, a “material ghost”; and this is amplified when the narrator considers the ways in which Clifford’s prolonged incarceration has inhibited his ability to keep up with progress: “Nothing gives a sadder sense of decay than this loss… of the power to deal with unaccustomed things… we are less than ghosts, for the time being, whenever this calamity befalls us” (174). Clifford’s role as a spectral being is clear. He haunts the House of the Seven Gables as a ghostly reminder of the systemic failures that won the Pyncheons the home in the first place.

17Reminiscent of Maule’s execution, Clifford is rendered figuratively dead by his felonious status and his absence from progressively ordered time. He is beyond the protection of the law and the social influence of the market. This, consequently, aligns him with toxicity, disease, and contagion in the eyes of the powerful—namely Judge Pyncheon—who believes Clifford to possess “a mode of passion that … indicates mental disease” (253). When, after his release, the Judge again confronts Clifford about the deed to the ancestral tract of land, he threatens Clifford with “confinement” on the basis of mental defect: “Since [his] return, I have taken the precaution… to have his deportment… carefully overlooked. I am led to apprehend… that Clifford’s misfortunes have so affected his intellect… that he cannot safely remain at large” (253). Though his circumstances have been largely contrived by the Judge, Clifford is portrayed by the politician as a threat to public safety. Because he will not—and cannot—provide Judge Pyncheon with the necessary information to reclaim the lost family lands, Clifford threatens to corrupt and poison what is left of the family’s future security.

18As a spectral subject in Hawthorne’s romance, though, Clifford is afforded reparations for the injustices enacted against him by the Judge. Almost as soon as Judge Pyncheon threatens to have Clifford committed to a mental asylum, he is struck down by the same familial curse that killed the old Colonel at the beginning of the narrative, and the corpse of Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon is left sitting in the same room that held the progenitor’s body. In a moment of poetic justice, Judge Pyncheon’s death recalls the spectral vengeance played out by Maule’s ghost, down to the Judge’s absence at a particular celebration. As he sits, expiring, in the parlor of the House of the Seven Gables, Judge Pyncheon is expected at a “gathering of some dozen or so of friends from several districts of the state; men of distinguished character and influence… practiced politicians… skilled to steal from the people, without its knowledge, the power of choosing its own rulers” (292-93). What is remarkable about this note by the narrator is that it aligns the Judge, concretely, with the insidious powers of the modern state. Not only is Judge Pyncheon guilty of wielding the law and his influence against his own cousins, but he also leverages his status into a bid for political power that undermines electoral, democratic politics—a representative of the culmination of the forces of political liberalism.

19Notably, though, just as Hawthorne’s narrator is careful to catalog the various alcoholic spirits that are present at the Colonel’s fatal housewarming, the narrator is particular in mentioning the specific liquor at the dinner party the Judge misses. The narrator notes that the feast is “flavored by a brand of old Madeira which has been the pride of many seasons… a golden liquid, worth more than liquid gold…. It would all but revive a dead man!” (293). This madeira is not only medicinal remedy, it is aqua vitae; and Judge Pyncheon’s inability to taste it, to become intoxicated by it, leaves him victim to the toxic haunts of the House of the Seven Gables, and to the noxious spirits of his own making. In this moment of glorious irony, Hawthorne’s narrator invites the reader to partake in the delights of the romance—to be intoxicated by the possibilities of how the world could be, where a corrupt Judge is served his just desserts. As the party-goers at the text’s outset are, in their inebriation, able to perceive and give credence to Maule’s spectral vengeance, so too are the readers of Gables, in this moment of readerly immersion, able to envision a reality where Clifford Pyncheon is offered justice—escaping the ancestral curse that “God will give them blood to drink” even as his relation is undone by it.

20The spectral biopolitics of The House of the Seven Gables is at once a practice of interrogation and of resistance. It critiques the politics of an emergent American state that prioritizes the possession of private property, market productivity, and legal protection at the expense of persons it deems “other” and thus threatening to the health of the population, while at the same time creating avenues of radical redress. The romance, for all of its ghosts, specters, witches, curses, and phantasms, persists “as an important site of inventive aspirations that take us beyond what must and toward what might be, a record of what citizens can do” (Castiglia 257, emphasis added). The persons that are unmade into toxic specters whether by addiction, incarceration, seclusion, disability, or dispossession are, in the romance, remade into intoxicating possibilities for reclaiming one’s agency in the face of institutions and systems which feel all-encompassing. At its heart, Gables critiques antebellum America’s biopolitics by emphasizing that justice—the reestablishment of human dignity—cannot come from the enforcement of a legal system that prioritizes the slippery spirit of the law via its market and property rituals over and against its protection of persons. Rather, justice and human agency must come from interpersonal recognition and restitution between citizens and non-citizens, the human subject and the spectral body. Perhaps, then, to return to Hawthorne’s elderly ragamuffin, reclaiming a “shadow of respectability” is never beyond the scope of possibility.

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---. Passages From the American Note-books of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Edited by Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, Illustrated Library ed., Houghton & Mifflin, 1870.

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Electronic reference

Emelia Abbé Robertson, [In]toxic[ating] Bodies: Spirits and Spectral Biopolitics in The House of the Seven GablesEuropean journal of American studies [Online], 19-1 | 2023, Online since 07 September 2023, connection on 29 September 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Emelia Abbé Robertson

Emelia Abbé Robertson holds a PhD in English Language and Literature from the University of Michigan. She is a scholar of material culture, science studies, and biopolitics in the early- and nineteenth-century United States. Her work has appeared in Early American Literature, and has been presented at the conferences of the American Literature Association, the Imagining America Consortium, and l’Association Française d’Etudes Américaines. She is a member of the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the Society of Early Americanists.

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