A Political Companion to Herman Melville (Political Companions Gr Am Au)
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Herman Melville is widely considered to be one of America's greatest authors, and countless literary theorists and critics have studied his life and work. However, political theorists have tended to avoid Melville, turning rather to such contemporaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to understand the political thought of the American Renaissance. While Melville was not an activist in the traditional sense and his philosophy is notoriously difficult to categorize, his work is nevertheless deeply political in its own right. As editor Jason Frank notes in his introduction to A Political Companion to Herman Melville, Melville's writing "strikes a note of dissonance in the pre-established harmonies of the American political tradition."
This unique volume explores Melville's politics by surveying the full range of his work―from Typee (1846) to the posthumously published Billy Budd (1924). The contributors give historical context to Melville's writings and place him in conversation with political and theoretical debates, examining his relationship to transcendentalism and contemporary continental philosophy and addressing his work's relevance to topics such as nineteenth-century imperialism, twentieth-century legal theory, the anti-rent wars of the 1840s, and the civil rights movement. From these analyses emerges a new and challenging portrait of Melville as a political thinker of the first order, one that will establish his importance not only for nineteenth-century American political thought but also for political theory more broadly.
died of the t-bees in that death trap, but I bet a man ain’t no more go’n be born in there,’ he said.”48 They had a small and ultimately doomed hope and prospect, but they acted nonetheless. The tragedy of the action is not to be denied here. They destroyed their home. But they did so triumphantly. After helping them, the protagonist runs off thinking he needs to stop the Brotherhood. He still believes that they planned and are in some way exercising control of the riot. Despite the spontaneous
though the wit thereof he but dimly discerns, and more than suspects that the joke is at nobody’s expense but his own.” Even death consists of “jolly punches in the side bestowed by the unseen and unaccountable old joker. . . . There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy, and with it I now regarded this whole voyage of the Pequod, and the great White Whale as its object” (265). Calling life a joke, not a tragedy, he endorses a
all humans are inextricably bound to a plurality of other humans, and that fate is not individual but shared. He declares a new appreciation for the interdependence of the “kingly commons.” But Ishmael’s enlightenment comes only after the wholesale destruction of the community of which he has been part; although he survives by riding on his friend Queequeg’s coffin, his is in fact a rather lonely fate. At the end of the novel, he is picked up by another American ship, which finds “another
commissaries, process their grain at manor mills, and commit to the landlord a set number of days’ labor in addition to paying an annual rent in wheat and livestock, the “annual tribute” Melville refers to in Pierre’s dream.4 The Revolution threatened to destroy the manor system, especially with the abolition of primogeniture and feudal tenures. The New York landlords who sided with the Revolution survived the transition by creating ingenious new leases. Some landlords, such as the Livingstons,
the landlords to seize tenants’ property subjected them to “feudal slavery,” which was “inconsistent with a code of equal laws.”12 The Anti-Renters sought legislation that would nullify the most odious elements of their leases, especially the quarter sale provision. In the courts the Anti-Renters argued that the landlords’ titles were themselves fraudulent, that they should be nullified, and that the estates should be broken up and distributed to the tenants, who had earned their rights to the