On April 30, 1849, Sarah Bayliss Royce, along with her husband, Josiah, and their daughter, Mary, left her home in Tipton, Iowa, and headed for California in a covered wagon. Along the way, she kept a diary which, nearly thirty years later, served as the basis for a memoir she titled Across the Plains. That book has been freshly transcribed by Jennifer Dawes Adkison from Royce’s original handwritten document, and this new edition is faithful to the original, restoring several passages that were omitted from the previous edition.
In a new introduction Adkison reveals Across the Plains to be far more than a simple narrative of one pioneer woman’s journey west. She explains that Royce wrote the book at the request of her son, Josiah Royce, a well-known professor of philosophy at Harvard University with motives of his own. She crafted the narrative that her son wanted: an argument for spiritual faith and fortitude as foundational to California’s history. Yet the narrative itself, in addition to offering a window into a world that has long lacked close documentation, gives us the opportunity to study the ways in which nineteenth-century western women asserted this primacy of faith and crafted their experience into stories with larger cultural and social resonance.
Scholars have long used Across the Plains to mold and support an iconic image of the resolute pioneer woman. However, until now no one has considered Royce’s own self-conscious creation of this persona. Readers will discover that in many ways, Sarah Royce’s careful construction of this cultural portrait deepens our respect for her and our delight in her travels, travails, and triumphs.
Contextualizes Herman Melville’s short fiction and poetry by studying it in the company of the more familiar fiction of the 1850s era
The study focuses on Melville’s vision of the purpose and function of language from Moby-Dick through Billy Budd with a special emphasis on how language—in function and form—follows and depends on the function and form of the body, how Melville’s attitude toward words echoes his attitude toward fish. Davis begins by locating and describing the fundamental dialectic formulated in Moby-Dick in the characters of Ahab and Ishmael. This dialectic produces two visions of bodily reality and two corresponding visions of language: Ahab’s, in which language is both weapon and substitute body, and Ishmael’s, in which language is an extension of the body—a medium of explanation, conversation, and play. These two forms of language provide a key to understanding the difficult relationships and formal changes in Melville’s writings after Moby-Dick.
By following each work’s attitude toward the dialectic, we can see the contours of the later career more clearly and so begin a movement away from weakly contextualized readings of individual novels and short stories to a more complete consideration of Melville’s career. Since the rediscovery of Herman Melville in the early decades of this century, criticism has been limited to the prose in general and to a few major works in particular.
Those who have given significant attention to the short fiction and poetry have done so frequently out of context, that is, in multi-author works devoted exclusively to these genres. The result has been a criticism with large gaps, most especially for works from Melville’s later career. The relative lack of interest in the poetry has left us with little understanding of how Melville’s later voices developed, of how the novels evolved into tales, the tales into poetry, and the poetry back into prose. In short, the development of Melville’s art during the final three decades of his life remains a subject of which we have been afforded only glimpses, rarely a continuous attention. After the Whale provides a new, more comprehensive understanding of Melville’s growth as a writer.
Although Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick is beloved as one of the most profound and enduring works of American fiction, we rarely consider it a work of nature writing—or even a novel of the sea. Yet Pulitzer Prize–winning author Annie Dillard avers Moby-Dick is the “best book ever written about nature,” and nearly the entirety of the story is set on the waves, with scarcely a whiff of land. In fact, Ishmael’s sea yarn is in conversation with the nature writing of Emerson and Thoreau, and Melville himself did much more than live for a year in a cabin beside a pond. He set sail: to the far remote Pacific Ocean, spending more than three years at sea before writing his masterpiece in 1851.
A revelation for Moby-Dick devotees and neophytes alike, Ahab’s Rolling Sea is a chronological journey through the natural history of Melville’s novel. From white whales to whale intelligence, giant squids, barnacles, albatross, and sharks, Richard J. King examines what Melville knew from his own experiences and the sources available to a reader in the mid-1800s, exploring how and why Melville might have twisted what was known to serve his fiction. King then climbs to the crow’s nest, setting Melville in the context of the American perception of the ocean in 1851—at the very start of the Industrial Revolution and just before the publication of On the Origin of Species. King compares Ahab’s and Ishmael’s worldviews to how we see the ocean today: an expanse still immortal and sublime, but also in crisis. And although the concept of stewardship of the sea would have been entirely foreign, if not absurd, to Melville, King argues that Melville’s narrator Ishmael reveals his own tendencies toward what we would now call environmentalism.
Featuring a coffer of illustrations and an array of interviews with contemporary scientists, fishers, and whale watch operators, Ahab’s Rolling Sea offers new insight not only into a cherished masterwork and its author but also into our evolving relationship with the briny deep—from whale hunters to climate refugees.
Although Herman Melville is typically considered one of America’s earliest cosmopolitan writers, scholarship has focused primarily on his involvement with the South Seas, England, and the Holy Land. In American Risorgimento: Herman Melville and the Cultural Politics of Italy, Dennis Berthold extends Melville’s transnational vision both geographically and historically by examining his many references to Italy and Rome in the context of the Risorgimento, Italy’s long quest for independence and political unity.
Melville’s contemporaries, notably Margaret Fuller and Henry T. Tuckerman, recognized the similarities between the Risorgimento and America’s struggle for national identity, and the influx of exiles from the failed Italian revolutions of 1820 and 1831 made Melville’s New York a hotbed of Risorgimento sympathies. Literary and political expostulations on Italy’s plight combined to create a distinctively American view of the Risorgimento that Melville elaborated in his fiction through allusions, characterizations, and direct commentary on Roman history, Dante, Machiavelli, Pope Pius IX, and Giuseppe Mazzini.
Melville followed the unfolding drama of Italian nationalism more closely than any other major American writer and found in it tropes and themes that fueled his turn to poetry, particularly after his visit to Italy in 1857. The Civil War, a crisis for American nationalism as urgent and profound as the Risorgimento, reinforced the symbolic parallels between the United States and Italy and led Melville to meditate on Giuseppe Garibaldi and other Italian patriots in one of his longest poems.
Melville’s literary appropriations of Italian history, art, and politics demonstrate that transnational cultural exchanges are not confined to later American writing but originate with the country’s earliest authors and their recognition that any national literature worthy of the name must incorporate a broad international frame of reference.
Dennis Berthold is professor of English at Texas A&M University, College Station.
The Arbiters of Reality: Hawthorne, Melville, and the Rise of Mass Information Culture disrupts our critical sense of nineteenth-century American literature by examining the storytelling strategies of both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville in light of an emerging information industry. Peter West reveals how these writers invoked telegraphic and penny press journalism, daguerreotypy, and moving panoramas in their fiction to claim for themselves a privileged access to a reality beyond the reach of a burgeoning mass audience.
Locating Hawthorne and Melville in vivid and overlooked contexts—the Salem Murder scandal of 1830, which transformed Hawthorne's quiet city into a media-manufactured spectacle, and Melville's New York City of 1846–47, where the American Telegraph was powerfully articulating a nation at war—West portrays the romance as a reactive, deeply rhetorical literary form and a rich historical artifact.
In the early twenty-first century, it has become a postmodern cliché to place the word “reality” in scare quotes. The Arbiters of Reality suggests that attending to the construction of the real in public life is more than simply a language of critique: it must also be understood as a specific kind of romantic self-invention.
The memory of the American Civil War took many forms over the decades after the conflict ended: personal, social, religious, and political. It was also remembered and commemorated by poets and fiction writers who understood that the war had bequeathed both historical and symbolic meanings to American culture. Although the defeated Confederacy became best known for producing a literature of nostalgia and an ideological defensiveness intended to protect the South's own version of history, authors loyal to the Union also confronted the question of what the memory of the war signified, and how to shape the literary response to that individual and collective experience.
In Ashes of the Mind, Martin Griffin examines the work of five Northerners—three poets and two fiction writers—who over a period of four decades tried to understand and articulate the landscape of memory in postwar America, and in particular in that part of the nation that could, with most justification, claim the victory of its beliefs and values. The book begins with an examination of the rhetorical grandeur of James Russell Lowell's Harvard Commemoration Ode, ranges across Herman Melville's ironic war poetry, Henry James's novel of North-South reconciliation, The Bostonians, and Ambrose Bierce's short stories, and ends with the bitter meditation on race and nation presented by Paul Laurence Dunbar's elegy "Robert Gould Shaw." Together these texts reveal how a group of representative Northern writers were haunted in different ways by the memory of the
conflict and its fraught legacy.
Griffin traces a concern with individual and community loss, ambivalence toward victory, and a changing politics of commemoration in the writings of Lowell, Melville, James, Bierce, and Dunbar. What links these very different authors is a Northern memory of the war that became more complex and more compromised as the century went on, often replacing a sense of justification and achievement with a perception of irony and failed promise.
While research on autism has sometimes focused on special talents or abilities, autism is typically characterized as impoverished or defective when it comes to language. Autistic Disturbances reveals the ways interpreters have failed to register the real creative valence of autistic language and offers a theoretical framework for understanding the distinctive aesthetics of autistic rhetoric and semiotics. Reinterpreting characteristic autistic verbal practices such as repetition in the context of a more widely respected literary canon, Julia Miele Rodas argues that autistic language is actually an essential part of mainstream literary aesthetics, visible in poetry by Walt Whitman and Gertrude Stein, in novels by Charlotte Brontë and Daniel Defoe, in life writing by Andy Warhol, and even in writing by figures from popular culture.
Autistic Disturbances pursues these resonances and explores the tensions of language and culture that lead to the classification of some verbal expression as disordered while other, similar expression enjoys prized status as literature. It identifies the most characteristic patterns of autistic expression-repetition, monologue, ejaculation, verbal ordering or list-making, and neologism-and adopts new language to describe and reimagine these categories in aesthetically productive terms. In so doing, the book seeks to redress the place of verbal autistic language, to argue for the value and complexity of autistic ways of speaking, and to invite recognition of an obscured tradition of literary autism at the very center of Anglo-American text culture.
The experimental artist Peter Fischli once observed, “There’s certainly a subversive pleasure in occupying yourself with something for an unreasonable length of time.” In this same spirit, David Dowling takes it upon himself to attend and report on the all-consuming annual Moby-Dick Marathon reading at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
The twenty-five-hour nonstop reading of Melville’s titanic epic has inspired this fresh look at Moby-Dick in light of its most devoted followers at the moment of their high holy day, January 3, 2009. With some trepidation, Dowling joined the ranks of the Melvillians, among the world’s most obsessive literary aficionados, to participate in the event for its full length, from “Call Me Ishmael” to the destruction of the Pequod. Dowling not only survived to tell his tale, but does so with erudition, humor, and a keen sense for the passions of his fellow whalers.
The obsession of participants at the marathon reading is startling, providing evidence of Ishmael’s remark that “all men live enveloped in whale-lines. All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.” Dowling organizes his savvy analysis of the novel from its romantic departure to its sledge-hammering seas, detailing the culture of the top brass to the common crew and scrutinizing the inscrutable in and through Melville’s great novel.
Chasing the White Whale offers a case study of the reading as a barometer of how Melville lives today among his most passionate and enthusiastic disciples, who include waterfront workers, professors, naval officers, tattooed teens, and even a member of Congress. Dowling unearths Moby-Dick’s central role in these lives, and by going within the local culture he explains how the novel could have developed such an ardent following and ubiquitous presence in popular culture within our technology-obsessed, quick-fix contemporary world.
One of the most urgent tasks for gay studies today, James Creech argues, is the retrieval of a repressed, "closeted" literary heritage. But contradictions and problems cloud even the most basic theoretical questions: What does a lesbian or gay reading of a literary text require or presume? Can we talk about a homosexual writer expressing him- or herself before the invention of "homosexuality"? Was it possible for a writer like Herman Melville, for example, to create literary works linked to his own prohibited eros?
In Closet Writing/Gay Reading, Creech shows how a literary critic can be receptive to implicit and closeted sexual content. Forcefully advocating a tactic of identification and projection in literary analysis, he lends renewed currency to the kind of "sentimental" response to literature that continental theory—particularly deconstruction—has sought to discredit.
In the second half of his book, Creech sets out to analyze what he considers the exemplary novel of the nineteenth-century closet, Melville's Pierre, or: The Ambiguities. By approaching Pierre as the gay man Melville longed to have as its reader, Creech is able to decipher the novel's "encrypted erotics" and to reveal that Melville's apparent tale of incest is actually a homosexual novel in disguise. The closeted "address" to queer-sensitive readers that Pierre disseminates finally receives a critical reading that strives to be explicit, shareable, and public.
The letters by and to Melville in this volume extend from letters he wrote at the age of nine in 1828 to ones he sent and received during the year before his death at seventy-two in 1891. To fill the gaps within the correspondence, 542 editorial entries are chronologically interspersed for letters both by and to Melville for which no full text has been located but for which some evidence survives.
This scholarly edition presents a text as close to the author's intention as his difficult handwriting or other surviving evidence permits. Fifty-two newly discovered letters by Melville, more than half of which are presented here for the first time, are added to those printed in the 1960 edition. This text is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).
In The Errant Art of Moby-Dick, one of America’s most distinguished critics reexamines Melville’s monumental novel and turns the occasion into a meditation on the history and implications of canon formation. In Moby-Dick—a work virtually ignored and discredited at the time of its publication—William V. Spanos uncovers a text remarkably suited as a foundation for a "New Americanist" critique of the ideology based on Puritan origins that was codified in the canon established by "Old Americanist" critics from F. O. Matthiessen to Lionel Trilling. But Spanos also shows, with the novel still as his focus, the limitations of this "New Americanist" discourse and its failure to escape the totalizing imperial perspective it finds in its predecessor. Combining Heideggerian ontology with a sociopolitical perspective derived primarily from Foucault, the reading of Moby-Dick that forms the center of this book demonstrates that the traditional identification of Melville’s novel as a "romance" renders it complicitous in the discourse of the Cold War. At the same time, Spanos shows how New Americanist criticism overlooks the degree to which Moby-Dick anticipates not only America’s self-representation as the savior of the world against communism, but also the emergent postmodern and anti-imperial discourse deployed against such an image. Spanos’s critique reveals the extraordinary relevance of Melville’s novel as a post-Cold War text, foreshadowing not only the self-destructive end of the historical formation of the American cultural identity in the genocidal assault on Vietnam, but also the reactionary labeling of the current era as "the end of history." This provocative and challenging study presents not only a new view of the development of literary history in the United States, but a devastating critique of the genealogy of ideology in the American cultural establishment.
In the fast changing culture of antebellum New York, writers of every stripe celebrated "the City" as a stage for the daily urban encounter between the familiar and the inexplicable. Probing into these richly varied texts, Hans Bergmann uncovers the innovations in writing that accompanied the new market society— the penny newspapers' grandiose boastings, the poetic catalogues of Walt Whitman, the sentimental realism of charity workers, the sensationalism of slum visitors, and the complex urban encounters of Herman Melville's fiction.
The period in which New York, the city itself, became firmly established as a subject invented a literary form that attempts to capture the variety of the teeming city and the flaneur, the walking observer. But Bergmann does not simply lead a parade of images and themes; he explores the ways in which these observers understood what was happening around them and to them, always attentive to class struggle and race and gender issues.
God in the Street shows how the penny press and Whitman's New York poetry create a new mass culture hero who interprets and dignifies the city's confusions. New York writers, both serious and sensationalist, meditate upon street encounters with tricksters and confidence-men and explore the meanings of encounters. Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrinever" underlines the unrelenting isolation and inability to control the interpreter. Bergmann reinterprets Melville's The Confidence Man as an example of how a complex literary form arises directly from its own historical materials and is itself socially symbolic. Bergmann sees Melville as special because he recognizes his inability to make sense of the surface of chaotic images and encounters. In mid-century New York City, Melville believes God is in the street, unavailable and unrecognizable, rather than omnipresent and guiding.
Handsomely Done: Aesthetics, Politics, and Media after Melville brings together leading and emerging scholars from comparative literature, critical theory, and media studies to examine Melville’s works in light of their ongoing afterlife and seemingly permanent contemporaneity. The volume explores the curious fact that the works of this most linguistically complex and seemingly most “untranslatable” of authors have yielded such compelling translations and adaptations as well as the related tendency of Melville’s writing to flash into relevance at every new historical-political conjuncture.
The volume thus engages not only Melville reception across media (Jorge Luis Borges, John Huston, Jean-Luc Godard, Led Zeppelin, Claire Denis) but also the Melvillean resonances and echoes of various political events and movements, such as the Attica uprising, the Red Army Faction, Occupy Wall Street, and Black Lives Matter. This consideration of Melville’s afterlife opens onto theorizations of intermediality, un/translatability, and material intensity even as it also continually faces the most concrete and pressing questions of history and politics.
What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,—it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. Herman Melville wrote these words as he struggled to survive as a failing novelist. Between 1853 and 1856, he did write "the other way," working exclusively for magazines. He earned more money from his stories than from the combined sales of his most well known novels, Moby-Dick, Pierre, and The Confidence-Man.
In Herman Melville Graham Thompson examines the author's magazine work in its original publication context, including stories that became classics, such as "Bartelby, the Scrivener" and "Benito Cereno," alongside lesser-known work. Using a concept he calls "embedded authorship," Thompson explores what it meant to be a magazine writer in the 1850s and discovers a new Melville enmeshed with forgotten materials, editors, writers, and literary traditions. He reveals how Melville responded to the practical demands of magazine writing with dazzling displays of innovation that reinvented magazine traditions and helped create the modern short story.
In this imaginative book, Katie McGettigan argues that Melville's novels and poetry demonstrate a sustained engagement with the physical, social, and economic materiality of industrial and commercial forms of print. Further, she shows that this "aesthetics of the material text," central both to Melville's stylistic signature and to his innovations in form, allows Melville to explore the production of selfhood, test the limits of narrative authenticity, and question the nature of artistic originality.
Combining archival research in print and publishing history with close reading, McGettigan situates Melville's works alongside advertising materials, magazine articles, trade manuals, and British and American commentary on the literary industry to demonstrate how Melville's literary practice relies on and aestheticizes the specific conditions of literary production in which he worked. For Melville, the book is a physical object produced by particular technological processes, as well as an entity that manifests social and economic values. His characters carry books, write on them, and even sleep on them; they also imagine, observe, and participate in the buying and selling of books. Melville employs the book's print, paper, and binding—and its market circulations—to construct literary figures, to shape textual form, and to create irony and ambiguity.
Exploring the printed book in Melville's writings brings neglected sections of his poetry and prose to the fore and invites new readings of familiar passages and images. These readings encourage a reassessment of Melville's career as shaped by his creative engagements with print, rather than his failures in the literary marketplace. McGettigan demonstrates that a sustained and deliberate imaginative dialogue with the material text is at the core of Melville's expressive practice and that, for Melville, the printed book served as a site for imagining the problems and possibilities of modernity.
Impersonality: Seven Essays
Sharon Cameron University of Chicago Press, 2007 Library of Congress PS169.S425C36 2007 | Dewey Decimal 814.3
Philosophers have long debated the subjects of person and personhood. Sharon Cameron ushers this debate into the literary realm by considering impersonality in the works of major American writers and figures of international modernism—writers for whom personal identity is inconsequential and even imaginary. In essays on William Empson, Jonathan Edwards, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville, T. S. Eliot, and Simone Weil, Cameron examines the impulse to hollow out the core of human distinctiveness, to construct a voice that is no one’s voice, to fashion a character without meaningful attributes, a being that is virtually anonymous.
“To consent to being anonymous,” Weil wrote, “is to bear witness to the truth. But how is this compatible with social life and its labels?” Throughout these essays Cameron examines the friction, even violence, set in motion from such incompatibility—from a “truth” that has no social foundation. Impersonality investigates the uncompromising nature of writing that suspends, eclipses, and even destroys the person as a social, political, or individual entity, of writing that engages with personal identity at the moment when its usual markers vanish or dissolve.
Journals: Volume Fifteen
Herman Melville Northwestern University Press, 1989 Library of Congress PS2380.F68 vol. 15 | Dewey Decimal 813.3
This volume presents Melville's three known journals. Unlike his contemporaries Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, Melville kept no habitual record of his days and thoughts; each of his three journals records his actions and observations on trips far from home. In this edition's Historical Note, Howard C. Horsford places each of the journals in the context of Melville's career, discusses its general character, and points out the later literary uses he made of it, notably in Moby-Dick, Clarel, and his magazine pieces.
The editors supply full annotations of Melville's allusions and terse entries and an exhaustive index makes available the range of his acquaintance with people, places, and works of art. Also included are related documents, illustrations, maps, and many pages and passages reproduced from the journals. This scholarly edition aims to present a text as close to the author's intention as his difficult handwriting permits. It is an Approved Text of the Center for Editions of American Authors (Modern Language Association of America).
In this study of American cultural production from the colonial era to the present, Russell Reising takes up the loose ends of popular American narratives to craft a new theory of narrative closure. In the range of works examined here—from Phillis Wheatley’s poetry to Herman Melville’s Israel Potter , from Henry James’s "The Jolly Corner" to the Disney Studio’s Dumbo—Reising finds endings that violate all existing theories of closure and narratives that expose the the often unarticulated issues that inspired these texts. Reising suggests that these "non-endings" entirely refocus the narrative structures they appear to conclude, accentuate the narrative stresses and ideological fissures that the texts seem to suppress, and reveal "shadow narratives" that trail alongside the dominant story line. He argues that unless the reader notices the ruptures in the closing moments of these works, the social and historical moments in which the narrative and the reader are embedded will be missed. This reading not only offers new interpretive possibilities, but also uncovers startling affinities between the poetry of Phillis Wheatley and the fiction of Henry James, between Charles Brockden Brown’s Wieland and Melville’s least-studied novel, and between Emily Dickinson’s poem "I Started Early—Took My Dog" and Disney’s animated classic. Pursuing the implications of these failed moments of closure, Reising elaborates on topics ranging from the roots of domestic violence and mass murder in early American religious texts to the pornographic imperative of mid-century nature writing, and from James’s "descent" into naturalist and feminist fiction to Dumbo’s explosive projection of commercial, racial, and political agendas for postwar U. S. culture.
Lucchesi and The Whale
Frank Lentricchia Duke University Press, 2001 Library of Congress PS3562.E4937L83 2001 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Lucchesi and The Whale is an unusual work of fiction by noted author and critic Frank Lentricchia. Its central character, Thomas Lucchesi Jr., is a college professor in the American heartland whose obsessions and compulsions include traveling to visit friends in their last moments of life—because grief alone inspires him to write—and searching for secret meaning in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. Himself a writer of “stories full of violence in a poetic style,” Lucchesi tells his students that he teaches “only because [his] fiction is commercially untouchable” and to “never forget that.” Austerely isolated, anxiety-ridden, and relentlessly self-involved, Lucchesi nonetheless cannot completely squelch his eagerness for love. Having become “a mad Ahab of reading,” who is driven to dissect the “artificial body of Melville’s behemothian book” to grasp its truth, Lucchesi allows his thoughts to wander and loop from theory to dream to reality to questionable memory. But his black humor-tinged musings are often as profoundly moving as they are intellectual, such as the section in which he ponders the life and philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein in relation to the significance of a name—and then attempts to share these thoughts with a sexy, middle-aged flight attendant—or another in which he describes a chance meeting with a similarly-named mafia don. Despite apparent spiritual emptiness, Lucchesi in the end does find “a secret meaning” to Moby-Dick. And Lentricchia’s creations—both Lucchesi and The Whale and its main character—reveal this meaning through a series of ingeniously self-reflective metaphors, in much the way that Melville himself did in and through Moby-Dick. Vivid, humorous, and of unparalleled originality, this new work from Frank Lentricchia will inspire and console all who love and ponder both great literature and those who would write it.
Male Sexuality under Surveillance is a lively, intelligent, and expertly argued analysis of the construction of male sexuality in the business office. Graham Thompson interweaves three main threads: a historicized cultural analysis of the development of the modern business office from its beginnings in the early nineteenth century to the present day, a Foucauldian discussion of the office as the site of various disciplinary practices, and a queer-theoretical discussion of the textualization of the gay male body as a device for producing a taxonomy of male-male relations. The combination of these themes produces a study that is fresh, insightful, and provocative.
Political theorist and cultural critic, novelist and cricket enthusiast, C. L. R. James (1901 - 1989) was a brilliant polymath who has been described by Edward Said as "a centrally important 20th-century figure." Through such landmark works as The Black Jacobins, Beyond a Boundary, and American Civilization, James's thought continues to influence and inspire scholars in a wide variety of fields. "There is little doubt," wrote novelist Caryl Phillips in The New Republic, "that James will come to be regarded as the outstanding Caribbean mind of the twentieth century." In his seminal work of literary and cultural criticism, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways, James anticipated many of the concerns and ideas that have shaped the contemporary fields of American and Postcolonial Studies, yet this widely influential book has been unavailable in its complete form since its original publication in 1953. A provocative study of Moby Dick in which James challenged the prevailing Americanist interpretation that opposed a "totalitarian" Ahab and a "democratic, American" Ishmael, he offered instead a vision of a factory-like Pequod whose "captain of industry" leads the "mariners, renegades and castaways" of its crew to their doom. In addition to demonstrating how such an interpretation supported the emerging US national security state, James also related the narrative of Moby Dick, and its resonance in American literary and political culture, to his own persecuted position at the height (or the depth) of the Truman/McCarthy era. It is precisely this personal, deeply original material that was excised from the only subsequent edition. With a new introduction by Donald E. Pease that places the work in its critical and cultural context, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways is once again available in its complete form.
Melville Biography: An Inside Narrative is Hershel Parker’s history of the writing of Melville biographies, enriched by a lifetime of intimate working partnerships with great Melville scholars of different generations and by the author’s experience of successive phases of literary criticism. Throughout this bold book, Hershel Parker champions archival-based biography and the all-but-lost art of embodying such scholarship in literary criticism. First is a mesmerizing autobiographical account of what went into creating the award-winning and comprehensive Herman Melville: A Biography. Then Parker traces six decades of the “unholy war” waged against biographical scholarship, in which critics repeatedly imposed the theory of organic unity on Melville’s disrupted life—not just on his writings—while truncating his body of work and ignoring his study of art and aesthetics. In this connection, Parker celebrates discoveries made by “divine amateurs,” before throwing open his workshop to challenge ambitious readers with research projects. This is a book for Melville fans and Parker fans, as well as for readers, writers, and would-be writers of biography.
Owing to the decline of his contemporary fame and to decades of posthumous neglect, Herman Melville remains enigmatic to readers despite his status as one of America’s most securely canonical authors. Born into patrician wealth but plunged into poverty as a child, in 1840 he signed aboard the whaleship Acushnet in the midst of a nationwide depression and sailed to the South Pacific. At the Marquesas Islands, he deserted and lived for a time among one of the group’s last unsubjugated tribes. Upon his return home, he achieved overnight success with a book based on his experiences, Typee (1846).
Melville’s mastery of the English language and heterodox views made him a source of both controversy and fascination to western readers, until his increasing commitment to artistry and contempt for artificial conventions led him to write Moby-Dick (1851) and its successor Pierre (1852). Although the former is considered his masterwork today, the books offended mid-nineteenth-century cultural sensibilities and alienated Melville from the American literary marketplace. The resulting eclipse of his popular reputation was deepened by his voluntary withdrawal from society, so that obituaries written after his death in 1891 frequently expressed surprise that he hadn’t died long before.
With most of his personal papers and letters lost or destroyed, his library of marked and annotated books dispersed, and first-hand accounts of him scattered, brief, and frequently conflicting, Melville’s place in American literary scholarship illustrates the importance of accurately edited documents and the value of new information to our understanding of his life and thought. As a chronologically organized collection of surviving testimonials about the author, Melville in His Own Time continues the tradition of documentary research well-exemplified over the past half-century by the work of Jay Leyda, Merton M. Sealts, and Hershel Parker. Combining recently discovered evidence with new transcriptions of long-known but rarely consulted testimony, this collection offers the most up-to-date and correct record of commentary on Melville by individuals who knew him.
“Who would have looked for philosophy in whales, or for poetry in blubber?” the London John Bull remarked in October of 1851. And yet, the reviewer went on, “few books which professedly deal in metaphysics, or claim the parentage of the muses, contain as much true philosophy and as much genuine poetry as the tale of the Pequod's whaling expedition.” A decade and a half before surprising the world with a book of Civil war poetry, Melville was already confident of what was “poetic” in his prose. As Hershel Parker demonstrates in this book, Melville was steeped in poetry long before he called himself a poet.
Here Parker, the dean of Melville studies, gives a compelling, in-depth account of how one of America’s greatest writers grew into the vocation of a poet. His work corrects two of the most pernicious misconceptions about Melville perpetuated by earlier critics: that he repudiated fiction writing after Pierre, and that he hadn’t begun writing poetry (let alone had a book of poems ready for publication) as early as 1860. In clearing up these misapprehensions, Parker gives a thorough and thoroughly involving account of Melville’s development as a poet. Parker demonstrates for the first time just how crucial poetry was to Melville from childhood to old age, especially its re-emergence in his life after 1849. Drawing on Melville's shrewd annotations of great British poets and on his probing, skeptical engagement with commentaries on poetry (particularly by the great Scots reviewers), Parker paints a richly textured portrait of a hitherto unseen side of Herman Melville.
Harrison Hayford Northwestern University Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS2387.H39 2003 | Dewey Decimal 813.3
Bringing together in one volume the essays of the world's foremost authority on Herman Melville, this collection is both an essential companion and guide to any reading of the American master's work and a model of literary interpretation that is at once precise, judicious, and inspired. The book allows those who (sometimes unknowingly) felt Harrison Hayford's influence to experience firsthand the interpretive force of his critical method and, through his work, to rediscover the compelling mysteries and intricacies of Melville's writing.
Written over many years, these essays retain the power to enlighten and surprise-and often, as Hershel Parker notes in his Foreword, to dazzle. Along with the never-before-published essay from which the book takes its title, Melville's Prisoners includes "Loomings," widely viewed as the single best piece of criticism ever written on Moby-Dick, and "Unnecessary Duplicates," a classic of textual speculation on Melville's methods. Others offer, along with their enduring insights into Melville's work, example after example of a capacious and astonishingly energetic mind at work and at play-a long view of how scholarship at its best is done. In sum, this volume constitutes the finest set of scholarly-critical essays ever written one of America's great writers.
From 1929 to the latest issue, American Literature has been the foremost journal expressing the findings of those who study our national literature. The journal has published the best work of literary historians, critics, and bibliographers, ranging from the founders of the discipline to the best current critics and researchers. The longevity of this excellence lends a special distinction to the articles in American Literature. Presented in order of their first appearance, the articles in each volume constitute a revealing record of developing insights and important shifts of critical emphasis. Each article has opened a fresh line of inquiry, established a fresh perspective on a familiar topic, or settled a question that engaged the interest of experts.
One Foot in the Finite inspires a radical shift in our view of Melville’s project in Moby-Dick, for its guiding notion is that Melville uses his book to call into question the naturalism that distinguishes the early modern period in Europe. Naturalism is not only the idea that reality is exhausted by nature, or that there exists a domain of physical entities subject to autonomous laws and unaffected by human ingenuity; it also implies a counterpart, a world of pretense and deception, a domain of mental entities ontologically distinct from physical entities and therefore constituting a different realm. To naturalists, whales are part of the background of existing objects against which man assembles his various, subjective, rather arbitrary interpretations. But in Moby-Dick Melville casts upon the world a more ingenious eye, one free of the dualist veil. He confronts a basic misconception: that the contents of consciousness comprise a different order from physical life. He rubs out the dividing line modernity has drawn between the human world of names or concepts and the nonhuman world of plants, creatures, geological features, and natural forces. Melville’s philosophizing, carried by fiction, has dramatic consequence. It overturns our view of language as a system of mental representations that might turn out to represent falsely.
Although he surprised the world in 1866 with his first published book of poetry, Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War, Herman Melville had long been steeped in poetry. This new offering in the authoritative Northwestern-Newberry series, The Writings of Herman Melville, with a historical note by Hershel Parker, is testament to Melville the poet. Penultimate in the publication of the series, Published Poems follows the release of Melville’s verse epic, Clarel (1876), and with it, contains the entirety of the poems published during Melville’s lifetime: Battle-Pieces, as well as John Marr and Other Sailors, with Some Sea-Pieces (1888), and Timoleon Etc. (1891).
Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War has long been recognized as a great contribution to the poetry of the Civil War, comparable only to Whitman’s Drum-Taps. Its idiosyncrasies, many of them grounded in British poetry, kept it from immediate popularity, but it was not the production of a novice. Melville had made himself over into a poet in the late 1850s and had tried to publish a previous collection of poetry—now lost—in 1860.
John Marr and Other Sailors is a retrospective nautical book. Its portraits of sailors were influenced by Melville’s own experience of aging as well as by his long acquaintance with wasted mariners at the Sailors’ Snug Harbor on Staten Island, where his brother was governor.
The book modulates into "Sea-Pieces," including the grisly "Maldive Shark" and "To Ned," a powerful reflection on how Melville’s personal adventures with the Typee islanders in 1842 had accrued rich historical significance over the decades.
Thematically less unified, Timoleon Etc. contains poems with many European and exotic settings from ancient to modern times. The most famous are "After the Pleasure Party" and "The Age of the Antonines." Published in the last year of Melville’s life, some of the poems were first written many years earlier; for example, Melville copied "The Age of the Antonines" out for his brother-in-law in 1877, describing it as something found in a bundle of old papers. One whole section seems to have been almost entirely salvaged from the unpublished 1860 volume of poetry. As with the other volumes in the Northwestern-Newberry series, the aim of this edition of Published Poems is to present a text as close to the author’s intention as surviving evidence permits. To that end, the editorial appendix includes a historical note by Hershel Parker, the dean of Melville scholars, which gives a compelling, in-depth account of how one of America’s greatest writers grew into the vocation of a poet; an essay by G. Thomas Tanselle on the printing and publishing history of the works in Published Poems; a textual record that identifies the copy-texts for the present edition and explains the editorial policy; and substantial scholarly notes on individual poems.
Reading Billy Budd
Hershel Parker Northwestern University Press, 1990 Library of Congress PS2384.B7P37 1990 | Dewey Decimal 813.3
In this study of Melville's Billy Budd, Sailor, renowned Melville scholar Hershel Parker provides the fullest introduction to and analysis of this work to date. It is the first complete reading of Billy Budd to draw on the definitive but neglected Hayford-Sealts Genetic Text. For the first time, it places Billy Budd in the context of Melville's writings and projects of the last decade of his life; and it is the first to present the work as a product of the post-Gilded Age and fin-de-siecle period rather than of the mid-century high romanticism of Moby-Dick.
Yothers’ Sacred Uncertainty examines Melville’s engagement with religious difference, both within American culture and around the world. It is impossible to understand Melville’s wider engagement with religious and cultural questions, however, without understanding the fundamental tension between self and society, self and others that underlies his work, and that is manifested in particular in the way in which he interacts with other writers. There is almost certainly no more concrete or reliable way to get at Melville’s affirmations of and arguments with these interlocutors than in the markings and annotations that appear in his copies of many of their works, so Yothers examines Melville’s marginalia for clues to Melville’s thinking about self, other, and difference. Sacred Uncertainty provides a much needed exploration of Melville’s encounter with and reflection upon religious difference.
In The Sign of the Cannibal Geoffrey Sanborn offers a major reassessment of the work of Herman Melville, a definitive history of the post-Enlightenment discourse on cannibalism, and a provocative contribution to postcolonial theory. These investigations not only explore mid–nineteenth century resistance to the colonial enterprise but argue that Melville, using the discourse on cannibalism to critique colonialism, contributed to the production of resistance. Sanborn focuses on the representations of cannibalism in three of Melville’s key texts—Typee, Moby-Dick, and “Benito Cereno.” Drawing on accounts of Pacific voyages from two centuries and virtually the entire corpus of the post-Enlightenment discourse on cannibalism, he shows how Melville used his narratives to work through the ways in which cannibalism had been understood. In so doing, argues Sanborn, Melville sought to move his readers through stages of possible responses to the phenomenon in order to lead them to consider alternatives to established assumptions and conventions—to understand that in the savage they see primarily their own fear and fascination. Melville thus becomes a narrator of the postcolonial encounter as he uncovers the dynamic of dread and menace that marks the Western construction of the “non-savage” human. Extending the work of Slavoj Zizek and Homi Bhabha while providing significant new insights into the work of Melville, The Sign of the Cannibal represents a breakthrough for students and scholars of postcolonial theory, American literary history, critical anthropology, race, and masculinity.
This is the first book exclusively devoted to the Civil War writings of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, arguably the most important poets of the war. The essays brought together in this volume add significantly to recent critical appreciation of the skill and sophistication of these poets; growing recognition of the complexity of their views of the war; and heightened appreciation for the anxieties they harbored about its aftermath. Both in the ways they come together and seem mutually influenced, and in the ways they disagree, Whitman and Melville grapple with the casualties, complications, and anxieties of the war while highlighting its irresolution. This collection makes clear that rather than simply and straightforwardly memorializing the events of the war, the poetry of Whitman and Melville weighs carefully all sorts of vexing questions and considerations, even as it engages a cultural politics that is never pat.
Contributors: Kyle Barton, Peter Bellis, Adam Bradford, Jonathan A. Cook, Ian Faith, Ed Folsom, Timothy Marr, Cody Marrs, Christopher Ohge, Vanessa Steinroetter, Sarah L. Thwaites, Brian Yothers
Visionary of the Word brings together the latest scholarship on Herman Melville’s treatment of religion across his long career as a writer of fiction and poetry. The volume suggests the broad range of Melville’s religious concerns, including his engagement with the denominational divisions of American Christianity, his dialogue with transatlantic currents in nineteenth-century religious thought, his consideration of theological and philosophical questions related to the problem of evil and determinism versus free will, and his representation of the global contact among differing faiths and cultures. These essays constitute a capacious response to the many avenues through which Melville interacted with religious faith, doubt, and secularization throughout his career, advancing our understanding of Melville as a visionary interpreter of religious experience who remains resonant in our own religiously complex era.
K.L. Evans University of Minnesota Press, 2003 Library of Congress PS2384.M62E93 2003 | Dewey Decimal 813.3
An entirely fresh approach to Moby Dick, by way of Ludwig Wittgenstein.
The aim of this thoroughly unconventional work is to demonstrate that Herman Melville's Moby Dick and Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations share the same projects and are, in effect, one and the same book. Confounding and improbable as such an enterprise might seem, Whale! not only successfully reveals the vital intersections between Melville and Wittgenstein but also, more important, makes a compelling argument for why such intersections are essential to understanding common political projects in literature and philosophy.
Written with grace, passion, and wit, Whale! manages to produce a startling and remarkably original reading of one of the most written-about and interpreted books in the American canon. K. L. Evans explores Melville's vast work as a tale not of vengeance but of affection, and Ahab's near-pathological agitation as indicative of his refusal to accept the world as unknowable. Between Ahab and the whale, Evans traces a longing for connection and meaning and finds a forceful response to the skeptical view that language is bankrupt and knowledge is uncertain. In Ahab's hunt for Moby Dick, Whale! discovers a way to reconnect matter with meaning, object with knowledge.
K. L. Evans is assistant professor of English at the University of Redlands.
Although Herman Melville and Emily Dickinson differed dramatically in terms of their lives and writing careers, they shared not only a distaste for writing “for the street” (mass readership) but a preference for the intimate writer–reader relationship created by private publication, especially in the form of manuscripts. In Writing for the Street, Writing in the Garret: Melville, Dickinson, and Private Publication, Michael Kearns shows that this distaste and preference were influenced by American copyright law, by a growing tendency in America to treat not only publications but their authors as commodities, and by the romantic stereotype of the artist (usually suffering in a garret) living only for her or his own work.
For both Melville and Dickinson, private publication could generate the prestige accorded to authors while preserving ownership of both works and self. That they desired such prestige Kearns demonstrates by a close reading of biographical details, publication histories, and specific comments on authorship and fame. This information also reveals that Melville and Dickinson regarded their manuscripts as physical extensions of themselves while creating personae to protect the privacy of those selves. Much modern discourse about both writers has accepted as biographical fact certain elements of those personae, especially that they were misunderstood artists metaphorically confined to garrets.