- C. L. R. James and Herman Melville:Moby-Dick as an Antitotalitarian Novel
What did Caribbean thinker C. L. R. James, a scholar deeply invested in black social equality and the history of black revolution, find so captivating in his reading of Moby-Dick? Gary Vaughn Rasberry Revisits James's encounter with Melville. In his 2001 republication of James's Mariners, Castaways, and Renegades, Donald Pease observed that unlike celebrated works such as The Black Jacobins (1938) or Beyond a Boundary (1963), Mariners has posed an unusual interpretive challenge to scholars. Some critics read the text as a forced rewriting of Melville that promotes a revolutionary agenda or, alternately, as an anti-communist apology for US capitalism. Pease usefully re-introduced this neglected work as a Cold War allegory and reading of Moby-Dick as a visionary anti-totalitarian text. Rasberry extends and revises Pease's thesis by bringing out why racial difference is vital to rethinking critical approaches to Mariners. Rasberry's paper argues both that Mariners occupies a central position in post-World War II anti-totalitarian thought [End Page 103] and that Melville's multi-racial casting crucially shapes James's approach to regimes of power.