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R E V I E W ROBERT MILDER Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Cloth, $45.00; xv, 290 pp. T he great literary artist, Robert Milder proposes, inevitably enacts a double form of creation. There is, of course, the text we hold in hand, the artifact bound and delivered, but there are also the traces, writ large and small, in bold face and faded script, of an emergent authorial self, a protean figure that incrementally discovers and expresses the internal agitations that shape the literary career. In Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine Robert Milder extracts his critical premise from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage—“’Tis to create, and in creating live / a being more intense, that we endow / With form our fancy”—and in doing so Milder locates Melville squarely among those great Romantic artists whose subject never ceases to be the creation of the self, the making of a symbiotic double, this projected “Melville” alive in and between the lines. Robert Milder’s discerning narrative does not pursue the conventional biographical subject, locating the man in his time and day and through multiple relations to family, society and literary marketplace. Milder instead attempts to find, in Thomas Carlyle’s words, the writer’s “ideal outline of himself, which a man unconsciously shadows forth in his writings” (xi). In this endeavor Milder examines how literary complexes—whether in characters or tropes—reflexively illuminate the artist who made them. A character like Ahab, for example, comes into being through an irruptive response that sublimates “obscure psychic needs into cognitive structures of thought and art” (98). Milder finds “that Ahab’s God-relation derived from urgencies in Melville himself that he only partly understood and that he was content to express without requiring he be understood by others” (99). Exiled Royalties has ten chapters that span the range of Melville’s literary career. Some materials from six chapters were published in earlier versions over a twenty-year period. Exiled Royalties, however, in no way resembles a patchwork of recycled odd jobs. Each chapter has been copiously expanded and augmented, and the finished product possesses an unfolding cohesion. In the first five chapters Milder examines Melville’s achievements in Typee, Mardi, C  2007 The Authors Journal compilation C  2007 The Melville Society and Blackwell Publishing Inc A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 141 R E V I E W and Moby-Dick. The last half of the book primarily explores the intersections between Melville’s reading, his family life, and his poetry. Milder frequently positions Melville’s work in relation to carefully chosen writers and exemplary texts. In examining the socio-sexual concerns of Typee, for example, Milder enlists Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents to provide trenchant points of departure and reference for exploring what Milder identifies as the “interdependency of eroticism and social structure” (6). If Freud, for example, sees the repression of Eros as necessary for social cohesion, Milder explains how in Typee society “Eros could form the operative principle of a civilization without discontents” (13, italics in original). Within the larger framework of Milder’s study, the incompatibility of liberated self-expression and the requirement for measured social forms establish the foundation for Melville to be seen as a tragic writer. Melville’s tragic aspirations, Milder argues, derive from his response to the intractable, hegemonic nature of civilization’s disaster, a response that leads Melville to translate social criticism into metaphysical conundrums fueled, with low and high heat, by “a bitterness toward God for his detachment from history and a visceral indignation at the callousness of human beings” (24-25). In succeeding chapters on Mardi, “Hawthorne and His Mosses,” and Moby-Dick, Milder examines Melville’s response to civilization’s disjunctive contents and contexts in Post-Romantic, aesthetic, and political terms. In Mardi Milder reads Melville through “[t]he myth of cultural development Schiller sketched in Naı̈ve and Sentimental Poetry” (29). The defining circumstance for both writers was the rejection of what Schiller...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 141-145
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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