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

All Astir M elville came into the news last fall, in an unexpected way. Bartleby became the patron saint of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City. At least that was the proposal in the headline of a blog posting on the website of The New Republic, written by Nina Martyris, dated October 15, 2011, a month after protests began at Zuccotti Park in the city’s financial district (two blocks from Melville’s childhood home at 55 Cortlandt Street). Martyris invoked Melville’s scrivener as an icon of civil disobedience and pointed to the story’s critique of a Wall Street ethos and to the resonance of Bartleby’s refusal to consent to a destructive system although she noted the differences between the character’s objectless resistance and the political aims of the OWS protestors. According to postings on the Occupy Wall Street Library site, Bartleby “was declared the patron saint of the OccupyRefuseniks” in late September and the story “was read in three camps simultaneously for five days straight.” On November 10, a public reading of the story took place at 60 Wall Street, heralding the original Putnam’s Magazine title: “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street.” The flyer emblazoned the words “I WOULD PREFER NOT TO” in large type. (One blogger referred to the reading as “the nerdiest protest ever.”) Zach, the librarian at OWS, was photographed wearing an “I Would Prefer Not To” T-shirt. On November 6, the editorial page of The Oklahoman used Melville’s story to satirize the OWS protestors for what the editors considered their Bartleby-like eccentricity and imprecision. In late October and November, essays appeared on the web by Michelle Hardesty, Hannah Gersen, NoahType, DocHoc, Austin Allen, Robin Bates, Molly McArdle, and Lauren Klein, debating Bartleby’s negative refrain, the qualities of the lawyer-narrator’s response, and OWS’s protest against capitalism ’s inequities but refusal to provide a conventional agenda. In a more abstract register, these essays and the responses to them evaluated the reach and limit of analogies and the relationships between nineteenth-century literature and early-twenty-first century politics. Melville’s solitary, taciturn copyist, given form in a story whose economic critique and philosophical inquiry do not rest comfortably together, has generated yet another line of relation, this time asking readers to consider the varieties of refusal and the affirmation of a non-predicate in reference to a movement that refuses to move. Discussion will continue at the 2013 MLA Convention in Boston (January 3–6) with Melville Society panels organized by 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 89 A L L A S T I R Hester Blum (Penn State) on “Melville Occupies Wall Street” and “Melville and Protest.” Melville also was prominent at the second biennial conference of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, held in April at the University of California, Berkeley. There were panels on Melville criticism (attending to questions of oceanic studies, visual art, poetry, form, and race and slavery) and on Melville and affect studies, and individual papers on Melville and consciousness, Melville and disability, anti-bildungsroman in Redburn, time in Pierre, the non-human world portrayed in “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo,” and the erotics of papermaking in “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids.” The profusion of Melville talks at C19 generated, at the roundtable for contributors to Robert S. Levine’s second edition of his Cambridge Companion, a slightly wicked question from Maurice Lee (Boston University) addressed to those immersed in our author (and a question not unrelated to the elevation of Bartleby by OWS): what can Melville’s texts not be used to exemplify? T he Melville Society Cultural Project met in New Bedford to participate in the sixteenth annual Moby-Dick Marathon (January 7–8); to greet the 2011 Bezanson Fellow, Ellie Stedall, from Cambridge, England; and to conduct Society business with the New Bedford Whaling Museum. For the third straight...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 89-93
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.