Cover

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Contents

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xii-xiv
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Abbreviations

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pp. xv-xvi
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1 Late Melville and His Historical Occasion: Prolegomenon to a Rereading of Billy Budd, Sailor

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pp. 1-35
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As I have observed in my books The Errant Art of Moby-Dick (1996) and Herman Melville and the American Calling (2008), Melville, more than any other American writer, constellated the local (America) into the global context, a fictional strategy epitomized by rendering the site of the immediate event into a ship of state, literally in Moby-Dick, ‘‘Benito Cereno,’’ and The Confidence-Man, and symbolically in ‘‘Bartleby, the Scrivener.’’

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2 Criticism of Billy Budd, Sailor: A Counterhistory

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pp. 36-74
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The criticism and commentary on Herman Melville’s Billy Budd, Sailor since its publication in 1924 in England have been massive. As much, if not more, has been published on this short novel written at the end of Melville’s life as on Moby-Dick. Like Moby-Dick, furthermore, it has achieved global visibility. It is not my intention in this chapter to undertake a systematic history of this criticism and commentary.

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3 Billy Budd: A Symptomatic Reading

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pp. 75-140
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Who is the narrator of Billy Budd? Given the astonishing indifference to or the willful marginalization of this question in most previous criticism of the novella, asking this admittedly difficult question should not be taken as an impertinence. Indeed, one of the fundamental and, ...

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4 American Exceptionalism and the State of Exception after 9/11: Melville’s Proleptic Witness

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pp. 141-164
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In the immediate aftermath of the terrorist bombing of the twin towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush, in his capacity as ‘‘commander in chief’’ of U.S. armed forces (not as president), declared his ‘‘war on terror,’’ thus inaugurating a political momentum that, in the following years of his administration, bore witness to the virtual usurpation of political power by the U.S. government’s ...