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Herman Melville is widely considered to be one of America's greatest authors, and countless literary theorists and critics have studied his life and work. However, political theorists have tended to avoid Melville, turning rather to such contemporaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau to understand the political thought of the American Renaissance. While Melville was not an activist in the traditional sense and his philosophy is notoriously difficult to categorize, his work is nevertheless deeply political in its own right. As editor Jason Frank notes in his introduction to A Political Companion to Herman Melville, Melville's writing "strikes a note of dissonance in the pre-established harmonies of the American political tradition."

This unique volume explores Melville's politics by surveying the full range of his work-from Typee (1846) to the posthumously published Billy Budd (1924). The contributors give historical context to Melville's writings and place him in conversation with political and theoretical debates, examining his relationship to transcendentalism and contemporary continental philosophy and addressing his work's relevance to topics such as nineteenth-century imperialism, twentieth-century legal theory, the anti-rent wars of the 1840s, and the civil rights movement. From these analyses emerges a new and challenging portrait of Melville as a political thinker of the first order, one that will establish his importance not only for nineteenth-century American political thought but also for political theory more broadly.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813143873
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 01/07/2014
Series: Political Companions to Great American Authors Series
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 456
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Jason Frank is associate professor of government at Cornell University. He is the author of Constituent Moments: Enacting the People in Postrevolutionary America and Publius and Political Imagination and coeditor of Vocations of Political Theory.

Table of Contents

Series Foreword Patrick J. Deneen ix

Introduction: American Tragedy: The Political Thought of Herman Melville Jason Frank 1

1 Who Eats Whom? Melville's Anthropolitics at the Dawn of Pacific Imperialism Kennan Ferguson 21

2 "The End Was in the Beginning": Melville, Ellison, and the Democratic Death of Progress in Typee and Omoo Sophia Mihic 42

3 Chasing the Whale: Moby-Dick as Political Theory George Shulman 70

4 Ahab, American Susan McWilliams 109

5 "Mighty Lordships in the Heart of the Republic": The Anti-Rent Subtext to Pierre Roger W. Hecht 141

6 Melville and the Cadaverous Triumphs of Transcendentalism Shannon L. Mariotti 162

7 Language and Labor, Silence and Stasis: Bartleby among the" Philosophers Kevin Attell 194

8 Melville's "Permanent Riotocracy" Michael Jonik 229

9 What Babo Saw: Benito Cereno and "the World We Live In" Lawrie Balfour 259

10 "Follow Your Leader": Benito Cereno and the Case of Two Ships Tracy B. Strong 281

11 The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating Revisited Thomas Dumm 310

12 Melville's War Poetry and the Human Form Roger Berkowitz 333

13 The Lyre of Orpheus: Aesthetics and Authority in Billy Budd Jason Frank 358

14 Melville's Law Jennifer L. Culbert 386

Acknowledgments 413

Selected Bibliography 415

List of Contributors 423

Index 427

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Frank has put together a wonderful series of essays that capture the diversity of Melville's thought in all its intensity, complexity, and nuance. This is a fantastic book that is well deserving of the attention of political theorists, literary critics, and Melville scholars alike." — Simon Stow, The College of William and Mary

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