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  • Melville
  • Dennis Berthold

For once a bumper crop of articles on Melville's poetry distinguishes the year's work as a special issue of Leviathan brings together critics versed in theory and cultural studies to study the genre to which Melville devoted most of his life. Melville's Pacific writings gain attention in a good collection of essays from the 2003 Melville Society conference in Hawaii that pays special attention to Typee and imperialism, and a deconstructionist devotes an entire monograph to "Bartleby, the Scrivener." The English department at St. Joseph's University in New York City has begun a new online journal, The Milton and Melville Review, which publishes essays too brief to cover here but may be worth watching for future development. Two good essays on Moby-Dick and museum culture, an examination of blackface minstrelsy in "Benito Cereno," and the usual ambivalent probings into Billy Budd round out the best of this year's scholarship.

i Biographies, Editions, and Reference Works

The Cambridge Introduction to Herman Melville, ed. Kevin Hayes (Cambridge), offers a compact review of Melville's life and works aimed at students. In 140 pages it covers biography, describes the most important contexts for his work (for example, psychology, visual arts, existentialism, labor, slavery), offers readings of all the novels and the major stories and poems, discusses reception, and includes a short annotated [End Page 49] guide to further reading. This would make a good companion for either undergraduate or graduate courses in Melville.

ii General

"Whole Oceans Away": Melville and the Pacific, ed. Jill Barnum, Wyn Kelley, and Christopher Sten (Kent State), selects 22 papers presented at the fourth international conference of the Melville Society held at the old whaling port of Lahaina, Maui, in 2003. Melville spent a little more than three months in Hawaii in 1843, and some of the essays in this volume shed new light on this neglected period in his career. Half of the essays focus on Typee or Omoo, five are on Moby-Dick, and three cover "The Encantadas," "Benito Cereno," and the poetry. These will be discussed in their respective categories below. Three other essays take a broader scope and will be discussed here. Christopher N. Phillips, "Mapping Imagination and Experience in Melville's Pacific Novels" (pp. 124–38), traces the motif of "chartlessness" in Typee, Omoo, Mardi, and Moby-Dick and finds that "Melville resists Western maps," the "cartographic empiricism" that had come to dominate British mapmaking in the 18th century. "For all his imperialist tendencies," Phillips writes, "Melville does not believe in the ultimate epistemological or even anthropological success of the imperialist project of mapping the Pacific." Forever marked, or "tattooed," by his Pacific experiences, Melville early realized how racism and class oppression complicated intercultural encounters. Paul Lyons's "'He alo a he alo': Jonathan Kamakawiwo'ole Osorio at the Melville and the Pacific Conference" (pp. 63–79) introduces Osorio to mainlanders and reprints a generous selection from his book Dismembering Lahui: A History of the Hawaiian Nation to 1887 (2002) that argues for native Hawaiian empowerment and voices continuing native concerns over imperialism, a theme of the whole collection. In "Lines of Dissent: Oceanic Tattoo and the Colonial Contest" (pp. 291–304) Stanley Orr, Matt Rollins, and Martin Kevorkian find postcolonial significance in tattooing by analogizing it to textual production, with the tattooist as writer and the tattoo as text. Using rather forced examples from Typee, Omoo, and Israel Potter, they unsurprisingly find that tattooing provides a "site of contest" between Pacific and Western cultures.

Two established critics reassess religious and philosophical themes, and a third finds them funny. James Duban's "'Visible Objects of Reverence': Quotations from Goethe in Melville's Annotated New Testament" [End Page 50] (Leviathan 9, ii: 3–23) uses Internet search engines to identify the source of two passages that Melville inscribed in his personal bible. The passages come from Thomas Carlyle's 1840 translations of Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship and Wilhelm Meister's Travels, both of which Melville borrowed from Evert Duyckinck's library. Duban places each quotation in its original context and examines its import for Melville's larger aesthetic and philosophical ideas, extending from Moby-Dick...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2125
Print ISSN
0065-9142
Pages
pp. 49-68
Launched on MUSE
2009-10-01
Open Access
No
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