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Melville, Labor, and the Discourses of Reception

Weinstein, Cindy (1998) Melville, Labor, and the Discourses of Reception. In: The Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge University Press , Cambridge, pp. 202-223. ISBN 9781139000376.

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This essay is not, strictly speaking, about Melville's reception in the nineteenth century, but rather about the discourses constituting that reception and what those discourses have to say about certain fundamental aspects of antebellum culture and Melville's relation to them. Labor is the crucial category which organizes readers' responses to Melville as well as Melville's replies to his readers. I should like to begin with two brief examples that illustrate the symbiotic relations between labor and reception in Melville's writing: the first, an unsigned Boston Post review (though we know Charles Gordon Greene to be the author) of White-Jacket (1850), and the second, a letter written by Melville to his father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw. Greene's review questions Melville's ability to discuss naval discipline and the Articles of War, and of particular interest is the language he uses when denying Melville's credentials as a cultural critic: “The mind as well as the body is subject to the 'Division of Labor,' and, in most cases, those gifts and acquirements which enable one to produce a good romance unfit him for the calm, comprehensive and practical consideration of questions of jurisprudence or policy.” Here White-Jacket is attacked on the grounds that Melville's labors as author not only should be, but emphatically are, subject to precisely those divisions of labor that pertain to any other mode of labor, literary or otherwise.

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Additional Information:© 1998 Cambridge University Press.
Series Name:Cambridge Companions to Literature
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20180828-101413281
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Official Citation:Weinstein, C. (1998). Melville, Labor, and the Discourses of Reception. In R. Levine (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville (Cambridge Companions to Literature, pp. 202-223). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CCOL0521554772.010
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:89204
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:28 Aug 2018 18:31
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 00:33

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