Abstract

Branka Arsić's essay analyzes the complex relations among law, writing, and marriage described by Melville in Pierre, "The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids," and Bartleby, the Scrivener. The major argument of the essay is that Melville conceives of both writing and marriage as "celibatory machines," cut in two by the power of the law, which explains the obsessive return to the question of the law in his writing. The celibatory machine functions to divide the same in two such that any future fusion of, or even encounter between, the parts becomes impossible. The law in Melville is also such a severing blade that hollows the subject within itself, making it, as it were, empty and so rendering it inoperative. That accounts for the overwhelming presence of "passive" characters in Melville's work. However, since the law also imposes its power upon itself, it is emptied of its own lawfulness and thus deactivated. Hence everything in Melville happens within the space of the law, yet nothing ever functions lawfully.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6539
Print ISSN
0300-7162
Pages
pp. 81-100
Launched on MUSE
2007-11-05
Open Access
No
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