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R E V I E W relying too exclusively on the record of writing, reading, and annotations alone. These are only a small part of Melville’s later world, and the magazines, newspapers, reference works, paintings, illustrations, and other cultural artifacts Melville encountered became, like Whitman’schild going forth, “a part of him” and he of them. The projected final volume of the NorthwesternNewberry edition will publish better texts and fuller notes for the later poetry, and Hershel Parker’ssecond volume of the life will offer a more complete biographical record of the later years than Howard, Leyda, and Miller combined. When these works appear, perhaps we will be able to map the full dimensions of Melville’s“circle”in all its cultural, political, and historical richness, a land that still awaits discovery. -DENNIS BERTHOLD Texas AGM University Review Russ CASTRONOVO, Fathering the Nation: American Genealogies of Slavery and Freedom. (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1995), 283 pages. hen the questing entourage in Mardi first sails upon the coast of Vivenza, Melville’sallegorical depiction of the United States, they wencounter a monument to liberty on top of a lofty natural arch over which is chiseled the inscription ‘‘In-this-re-publi-can-land-all-men-areborn -free-and-equal.” As they sail under the arch, they notice a hidden hieroglyphic -translated by Mohi, Melville’schronicler of legend, as “Except-thetribe -of-Hamo” (NNMardi 512-15). By reading the lower layer of this postscript that nullifies the boast of American liberty, Melville’s aliens are immediately abIe to grasp the inconsistencies of an American republicanism founded upon a tradition of exclusion and African enslavement. Like Melville’sMohi, Russ Castronovo in this insightful book seeks to decipher the disjunctive modes through which a narrative of national liberty was constructed in an America that upheld the institution of slavery. The premise of Fathering the Nation is that the nation’santebellum story was authorized through a homogenous genealogy of patriarchal citizenship descending through the ritualized memory of the founding fathers. Castronovo shows how historical memory became a matter of cultural contest, especially after the Compromise of 1850disrupted the cohesion between national allegiance and 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 1 0 9 R E V I E W patrifilial descent. He deftly charts the tropological strategies with which Americans tried to contain the contradictions of domestic liberty. ChiefJustice Taney, for example, employed a confidence game in the Dred Scott case that affirmed slavery’splace in the legacy of filiopietism. Others employed fictions in the attempt to preserve the purity of American origins in the face of 1850s sectionalism. Castronovo’s own sympathy, however, is with “geneaological critics” such as Abraham Lincoln, William Wells Brown, Frederick Douglas, and Herman Melville, who fractured this national narrative by destabilizing its patriarchal design. Such a “parricidalcriticism” redefined slaveryas an integral part of the foundation of freedom, and thus prefaced the nation’sstory in oppositional ways that rescued its illegimate citizens and ramified its disruptive ambiguities. “Unless the citizen can reveal the iconic as ironic,” claims Castronovo, “thehuman endeavor of cultural remembrance becomes an unassailable representation of history”(156). In one of his most effective chapters, “Monumental Culture,” Castronovo adopts Nietzsche’s notion of “monumental history” to chart the evolving geneaology of the American sublime from its grounding in transcendental natural landscape (especially Niagara) through its transformation of the Revolution into a mythic discourse of national origins. By examining how George Washington was elevated to a political symbol (especially in architectural monuments), Castronovo shows how this historicization of the sublime created an imaginative stage in the nation’s communal consciousness. Castronovo argues that such monumentalism inverts Foucault’sPanopticon by creating icons of remembrance upon which individuals willingly unify their own gaze, a process that submerged their own independence within a controlling nationalist covenant. In this way, Castronovo asserts, “national identity, as constructed in the antebellum era, ran the risk of effacing democracy” (140). Castronovo dramatizes this process in his chapter on Maby-Dick, where (following Donald Pease and Michael Paul Rogin) he sees cultural monumentalism to be a form of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 109-112
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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