In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviews Melville’s Evermoving Dawn: Centennial Essays. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1997.xii, 419 pp. JOHN BRYANT AND ROBERT MILDER, E D 5 M elville’sEvermoving Dawn brings together eighteen essays originally presented as papers at conferences arranged by the Melville Society ,inNew York City, Washington, DC, and Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1991, to commemorate the centennial of Melville’s death. The roster of contributors to the volume is impressive, and I found something of interest in every selection. Although co-editor John Bryant downplays the significance of the event that occasioned the essays (“I suppose at this point one could mark the centennial ofjust about any event in Melville’s life or reputation,”he writes with refreshing candor), the collection honors its occasion and lives up to its billing by Bryant as “thebest that might have been offered during one year.” Represented in Evermoving Dawn (the phrase is taken from “Hawthorne and His Mosses”) are pre-eminent Melville scholars of the post-World War I1 generation (Walter Bezanson, Merton M. Sealts,Jr.), distinguished Melvilleans who came to prominence in the 1960sand 1970s(Bruce Franklin,John Seelye, Hershel Parker, Richard Brodhead, G. Thomas Tanselle, Stanton Garner, Robert Ryan) and in the 1980s (Shirley Dettlaff, John Bryant, Wai-chee Dimock), and still younger scholars (Samuel Otter, Wyn Kelley) who have gone on to achieve well-deserved recognition for their important work on Melville in the 1990s. Besides essaysby academic Melvilleans,EvermovingDawn also includes a panel discussion from the Pittsfield conference on Melville’s biography (a harbinger of renewed scholarlyinterest in the subject in the 1990s),essaysaddressing Melville and race by African-American scholar Arnold Rampersad and African-American novelist David Bradley, and an absorbing essay in “material culture”byJean Ashton, formerly a librarian for the New-York HistoricalSociety, who discusses the nineteenth-century pastime called “extra-illustration’’ : book owners would collect artifacts (photographs, lithographs, water color paintings and the like), often by the thousands, and display them to accompany or “illustrate ” published books. Ashton generates a hypothetical “extra-illustrated edition of Pierre to suggestnew and productiveways of apprehending Melville’s sole (and highly idiosyncratic) contribution to nineteenth-century domestic fiction. A thoughtful Introduction by John Bryant, “The Persistence of Melville: L E V I A T H A N A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L I ~ E S T U D I E S 7 7 R E V I E W Representative Writer for a Multicultural Age,” which makes the case for Melville’s continuing importance in an age when “dead white males” and the canon itself have been called into question, and a puckish Preface by Robert Milder round out this accessible and rewardingvolume. And what of the essays themselves. In his Preface, Milder whimsically imagines Melville, “who once feared immortalization as a ‘manwho had lived among the cannibals,”’ gazing down at us [participants in the Pittsfield conference ] with a quizzical Whitmanesque smile.” Whether gazing down from above or not, Melville the man is a pervasivepresence in EvemovingDawn, not only in the Melville biography and textual editing sections but also in Bezanson’s eloquent retelling of Melville’s young manhood at sea, in Bradley’s and Rampersads timely assessments of Melville’senlightened views on race, in Lawrence Buell’s and John Seelye’s author-centered critical essays. (Buell persuasively argues that Melville was as much a transatlantic writer in the 1840s and 1850s as an American one; Seelye reiterates long-held views about “Melville’shomosexuality” and Pierre’sIsabel being Hawthorne is disguise.) So pervasive in Evermoving Dawn is Melville the man and artist that it appears that reports of “the death of the author” by Roland Barthes and his poststructuralist cohorts in the 1960sand 1970swere greatly exaggerated. Besides being author-centered, the volume’s emphasis is also overwhelmingly historicist, which makes Melville’sEvermoving Dawn very much a product and expression of its time. As Bryant observes, “nonexistent” at the 1991centennial conferences, and hence absent from Dawn, are once-fashionable “poststructuralist and deconstructive readings.” The Confidence-Man, a Melville text of choice in the heyday of High Theory twenty years ago, is scarcely mentioned; Pierre, with its New Historicist...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 77-81
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.