Popular and critical urges to approach fiction and poetry as personal revelation or through the lens of biography are prone to meet with resistance. Various literary performances, some widely known, have themselves sought to prevent, confuse, or oppose these routes of access. Melville’s writings stage numerous aversions to presumptive biographical relevance, and this essay examines the John Marr volume as a late instance, signaled by omitted authorship and a prefatory piece that declares “personal feeling” to be unsuited to the “printed page.” “Inscription Epistolary” is an unusual preface for a nineteenth-century verse or prose collection, yet its features and sentiments enact a recurring gesture that invites comparison with more celebrated cases. Such cases attest to the equivocal allure and wayward paths of genetic reasoning, frequently compounded by authorial aversions to it.


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pp. 47-67
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