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JUNIPER ELLIS "A Wreckage of Races" in Jack London's South Pacific From the time of Captain Joseph Ingraham's 1791 encounter with the islands that U.S. gazetteers named after him and declared "the first discovery under the flag of the United States," the South Pacific has been discussed, debated, admired, and denounced in U.S. literature , culture, and politics.1 The Ingraham group of islands, actually part of the group Mendaña had named the Marquesas in 1595, continued to be rediscovered by U.S. travelers and writers. The Marquesas comprise a signal destination in U.S. representations of the South Pacific. The initial South Pacific point of anchor for U.S. travelers, the Marquesas were also the first extra-continental territory claimed by the U.S., when Captain David Porter renamed them the Washington Islands in 1813. Herman Melville visited them in the early 1840s, and the Marquesas were Jack and Charmian London's first stop in the South Pacific on their celebrated 1907-1908 cruise of the region. Jack London's representations of this voyage in his ship, the Snark, contributed some of the most notable features of a U.S. literature of the South Pacific. London followed a long line of U.S. writer-travelers in the region, including Melville, Henry Adams, and Mark Twain. London 's representations of the area are notable for their continuation of a popular representation of the Pacific. His stories and articles on the subject reached a wide-ranging audience in such publications as The Saturday Evening Post before being presented in collections including The Cruise of the Snark (1908), South Sea Taies (1911), and Son 0/ the Sun (1912).2 London's narratives ofthe South Pacific, however, register a significant departure from his U.S. predecessors because his Oceania Arizona Quarterly Volume 57, Number 2, Summer 2001 Copyright © 2001 by Arizona Board of Regents ISSN 0004- 1610 58Juniper Ellis is predicated upon a sense of belatedness. London acknowledged, more freely than othet writers, that he followed Melville's and other travelers ' tracks through the Pacific.' In his Pacific narratives, London is concerned with the production of such concepts as history and modernity, particularly in his focus on the ways in which facial and cultural categories merge in the Pacific. Emphasizing an Oceania where culture vanishes into race and the past overtakes the present, London accounts for U.S. more than for Pacific conceptual structures. But his wotks do examine the ways the racial appears as a sign of the cultural. This emphasis is important in its own right, but it also extends Waltet Benn Michaels' examination of this presentation of race and culture in 1920s' U.S. writing in Our America (1995). Rathet than representing what Michaels terms a Progressiveera "prehistory" (140) unconcerned with intersections of tace and culture , London anticipates in a significant way the modernists Michaels examines. In line with London's self-teflexive acknowledgement of his place in the tradition of the written Pacific, London both questions and extends the provenance of racialized categories of culture.4 London's journey and his narratives are poised between the modernity he helps bring to the Pacific, through his very presence, and the past that he wishes to locate there. His South Pacific derives its compelling characters and its compulsions from the tense encounters of encroaching modernity and the alterity—especially racial—ascribed to Oceania. It is just such a tension that marks London's work as a departure from previous writers. London relates that reading Melville's novel Typee as a child made him "hungry with an appetite of years for the sweet vale of Typee." "The years passed," London writes, "but Typee was not forgotten. ... I was bent on finding another Fayaway and another Kory-Kory" (15556 ). In evoking Melville's popular first novel, along with the ideal female and male companions Melville depicted in his account of jumping ship in the Marquesas, London divulges a desire to locate the past in the South Pacific and the South Pacific in the past.5 London reads Melville's narratives against the Oceania that the Snark voyagers encounter . The material Pacific does not meet the written one, compelling a...


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