This paper will argue that double consciousness has the role, in both novels, to enact the characters’ transformation by immersing them in a series of representations which have many affinities with the device of anamorphosis – distortions, deceiving perspectives and liminality. The transformative and metamorphic nature of the exploration into consciousness is rendered, in both novels, through the central role given to the motif of the threshold, or of the liminal space which acts as a trigger and signifier of the protagonists’ journey into self-discovery.
The Ambassadors is framed as the beginning of a journey, starting in a place of transition. Similarly, Coverdale becomes aware of the dangers of the two extreme modes of consciousness – materialism and transcendence – only the moment he constructs a third place for himself, the “hermitage”, again a liminal space which puts into perspective the two dimensions of the self. The first part of the paper will focus on Henry James’ novel and on the functions of Strether’s double consciousness.
This motif will also be analyzed from the perspective of space and of the implications of the externalization of the interior world. The second part of this paper will provide an analysis of double consciousness in Hawthorne’s novel in terms of the protagonist’s considerations on the materialism versus transcendentalism dichotomy, as well as of the spatialization of this opposition.