Len Gutkin Responds to Ralph James Savarese
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Len Gutkin Responds to Ralph James Savarese

In his surprising and suggestive reading of the function of Melville's references to Caspar Hauser in The Confidence-Man, Billy Budd, and Pierre, Ralph Savarese finds Melville's neuroatypicals at once inhabiting and disrupting the field of human diversity summoned by the category "cosmopolitan." If, on the one hand, neuroatypicals inspire a distrust analogous to the urban cosmopolite's pervasive suspicion—that adaptive micro-strategy for navigating a world of strangers—then, on the other hand, they present the opportunity of encounter, of "engaging with the 'multiform' Other in a neurodiverse way," as Savarese has it. The horizon of this reading is utopian, but cautiously so—Melville intimates a "possibility of a satisfying neurocosmopolitanism" whose contours must wait to be known. I am reminded of Moby-Dick's description of the Pequod's crew, that "Anacharsis Clootz deputation from all the isles of the sea, and all the ends of the earth." Here, for a moment, is one image of cosmopolitan, if not neurocosmopolitan, possibility. But it is short-lived, interrupted by darker stirrings, since after all "not very many of them [will] ever come back":

Black Little Pip—he never did—oh, no! he went before. Poor Alabama boy! On the grim Pequod's forecastle, ye shall ere long see him, beating his tambourine; prelusive of the eternal time, when sent for, to the great quarterdeck on high, he was bid strike in with angels, and beat his tambourine in glory; called a coward here, hailed a hero there!

Poor Pip's shattered mind is, like the drowned sailor's sea, a place from which one never does come back. Pip's difference cannot be absorbed into the floating city of the Pequod but serves rather as a "prelusive" symbol of the speechlessness of annihilation. But Pip is possessed also of a comic and humane wisdom; the interpenetration of this wisdom and his traumatized and compromised cognition reflects the "divided[ness] about disability" that Savarese observes in Melville. Evidence of the dark side of this division is the specter of Hauserian man in Pierre, where Hauser's rebirth in the traumatized psyche of Isabel unleashes, finally, a breakdown of all of the suturing relations of the social and the familial: we are left with death and the mineral silence of the Memnon Stone, or—to return to Moby-Dick—the sea in its vastness as suffered by Pip, bobbing along, alone.

For Savarese, sensory shock and cosmopolitanism are intimately bound up. The implications of this inextricability root both in the phenomenology of urban modernity propounded in Walter Benjamin's "On Some Motifs in [End Page 41] Baudelaire" as the "shock experience" typifying the nineteenth-century city. Might the Hauserian dilemma, particular as it is, come also to represent an increasingly standardized experience—that of urban humanity's perpetual adjustment to ubiquitous sensory shock? I love Savarese's characterization of Hauser's "belated" and "dazed" sociality, which elegantly articulates the characterological disposition my essay more pretentiously expresses in describing Isabel as "shot through with otherness." For Isabel, as also for Pip (for whom the trajectory of belatedness works somewhat differently), dazed sociality produces special kinds of language, marked by peculiar intensities and peculiar omissions. For this reason, I suggest the literary conception of the Hauserian subject stands at the fount of certain experiments with stream-of-consciousness. Quoting Rob Michalko, Savarese, too, finds formal implications in Melville's openness to "the difference that disability makes": Yoky's beautiful sign-language in Mardi, a new code borne of necessity. [End Page 42]

Len Gutkin
Yale University