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Abstracts ALA 2011 | Boston New Approaches to Melville CHAIR: MONIKA ELBERT, MONTCLAIR STATE UNIVERSITY A ll three papers on the panel discussed ramifications of United States expansionism regarding Melville’s definition of himself as an artist and his reflections about American art. Robert Nowatzki analyzed Melville’s (of necessity) moderate abolitionist stance and hope for interracial solidarity, as Melville created a scenario that a conservative reading public might have accepted. Shawn Thomson compared Melville the writer to Cellini the sculptor but demonstrated how their masterpieces, Ahab and Perseus, are quite different. Cellini would have felt a sense of Renaissance idealism; whereas, in his creation of the scarred Ahab, Melville was aware of the cataclysmic events in U.S. history, even as he attempted to create “a national myth of unity.” David Cody presented several new sources for Melville’s “The BellTower ” to illustrate the changing concept of the artist (with an overarching sense of hubris) and to show a fragmentation associated with technology and national guilt. All three speakers explored Melville’s sense of flawed national politics and art. “White Slaves in White-Jacket: Abolitionist Rhetoric in Herman Melville’s Anti-Flogging Novel” Robert Nowatzki Cleveland State University and the University of Akron M elville’s depictions of African American sailors on board the American frigate Neversink and his use of abolitionist rhetoric are connected in his argument against the practice of flogging sailors in his 1850 novel White-Jacket. Melville compares the sailors on this ship to chattel slaves who, like the black victims of abolitionist literature, are flogged for minor and nonexistent instances of disobedience. However, despite the c  2012 The Melville Society and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 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 L E S T U D I E S 121 A B S T R A C T S presence of a several African American sailors on board the Neversink and despite the lack of racism in Melville’s depiction of them, the novel includes only one instance in which black sailors are flogged; moreover, their punishment is attributed to their status as sailors, not their race. The absence of race as a motivating factor in Melville’s depictions of flogging distinguished his attack on the practice of flogging in the US Navy from the goals of the anti-slavery movement. Had Melville failed to separate these two causes, he might have made the novel less appealing to American readers who were skeptical or hostile toward abolition. In addition, the anecdote of a pampered black slave on board the Neversink goes against abolitionist depictions of abject slaves. Nevertheless, Melville, like many sailors, adopts abolitionist rhetoric in comparing the situation of common seamen to that of African American slaves. This comparison allows him to construct an interracial solidarity among the crew and to imagine an expanded notion of abolitionism that would liberate those who were oppressed by their class and occupational status as well as their race and legal status. “Seams and Seamlessness: Literary Nationalism in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick” Shawn Thomson University of Texas-Pan American M elville’s reference to Cellini in his description of Ahab as “shaped in an unalterable mould, like Cellini’s cast Perseus” indicates Melville’s authority as a creative artist liberated from the craft model. Cellini’s account of the casting of his Perseus in a single pour serves as a model for Melville’s own literary aspirations in writing Moby-Dick and emphasizes his attempts to break out of the mold of his youthful adventure novels and achieve the expression of his authority. In connecting Ahab with Cellini’s victorious Perseus, Melville links his nascent authority with Cellini’s struggle to stretch beyond what Michelangelo could express in marble or Donatello in his eleven separate castings of Judith. Like Cellini, Melville recognizes the great risk to his reputation and the deliverance from shoddy craftwork (of his “two jobs,” Redburn and White Jacket), as he engages the epic tradition of Milton and the unrestrained power of Shakespeare’s tragedies. But in describing the scar of Ahab as a “perpendicular...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 121-123
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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