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

is extremely successful and illuminating. The book concludes with a surprising and fascinating exploration of the way in which The Confidence-Man and Clarel make use of yet another pattern of urban archetype, the city as pilgrimage destination, the city as the site for the experience of what Kelley refers to as an “urban sublime.” In the end, Kelley offers the reader a strenuous encounter with the great variety of urban archetypes and conventions Melville engages in his writing career. With his complex personality and protean mind, Melville never takes refuge, like a less gifted writer, in the comfortable space of any of these conventions . His ambivalence towards the city is always mediated by his complex ambivalences towards all methods of representing it. Melville cannot be pigeonholed as having a particular attitude towards the city. Kelley is extremely successful in demonstrating this, and the complexity and variety of her book is a testimony to the complexity and variety of her subject. I do think that her book could have used a fuller and more comprehensive conclusion that might have addressed the problem of the messy richness of her subject and her discoveries .What she has in her concluding chapter seems to me to be mainly an effort to throw in a few words about Billy Budd because a fuller discussion of that work is not possible. However, this and the comparative weakness of the “Town-Ho”chapter are minor flaws, considering the ambitiousness of Kelley’s project and the many successful readings and revelations to be found within her book. I recommend Melville’s City as an illuminating, well-written, and valuable contribution to Melville studies and to the study of American responses to the growth of New York and urbanization in general. Dana Brand Hofstra University 1999HENNIG COHEN PRIZE WINNER The Sign of the Cannibal: Melville and the Making of a Postcolonial Reader GEOFFREY SANBORN Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.Xvi, 254 Pages ver the past two decades, scholars interested in issues raised by postcolonial theory have produced a significant body of criticism on 0Melville’s fiction. This is not surprising given Melville’s first-hand experience of British, French, and American imperialism during his rovings in the Pacific from 1841-1844,and given how the ideal of democratic freedom and the realities of American imperialist expansion during the mid-nineteenth cenA J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 1 2 5 R E V I E W S tury are in tension throughout his writings. The often parodic accounts of colonial encounter in Typee, the way in which Christian mission is anathematized in both Typee and Omoo, the thinly veiled, anti-imperial allegory of the Vivenza chapters in Mardi, the deeper symbolic irruption of the ideology of imperialism in Moby-Dick, the allegories of the law in “Benito Cereno,” and Billy Budd: all this and more is fertile ground for postcolonial readings of Melville’s fiction. Until recently however, the majority of scholars who have taken a postcolonial approach to Melville’s texts have found them complicit in Western imperialism. This is where Geoffrey Sanborn’s The Sign of the Cannibal: Melville and the Making of a Postcolonial Reader breaks new ground. For unlike those who find Melville’s texts simply reproductive of the epistemological and racial assumptions of Western, colonial consciousness, Sanborn reads for those moments when Melville’snarratives expose the limits of that consciousness. And he does this in a unique and interesting way: by focusingon how representations of cannibals and cannibalism in Melville’s texts often show the Western concept of “humanity”to be a rhetorical trope produced, in part, by the stories and of cannibalism given in travel narratives and narratives of discovery.In teaching us to see the figure of “thecannibal” not as an example of natural savagery but as a sign in the discourse of civilization,Sanborn argues, Melville’s texts can help us learn to read from a postcolonial perspective. Those who are sometimes put off by the language that often attends postcolonial analysis need not shy away from Sanborn’sbook. He is...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 125-131
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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.