African Culture and Melville's Art
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African Culture and Melville's Art : The Creative Process in Benito Cereno and Moby-Dick

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Here is that rare work that in research and interpretation is original almost from beginning to end. For the first time we discover that slave music and dance are used by Melville in Moby-Dick in the creation of some of his most tragic and avant-garde art. Just as previously unknown African practices, found in travel accounts, reveal a powerful symbolic link between Benito Cereno and Moby-Dick, Frederick Douglass's formulation of joy-sorrow in slave life and music leads to the discovery of a blues aesthetic in Moby-Dick that is full of implications for American culture and the craft of writing. In the future, neither Benito Cereno nor Moby-Dick, should be read as before, for important passages in each spring from Melville's magnificent treatment of a source common to each. In still more ways, Melville in this volume in not the Melville we have known. Especially in Benito Cereno, the creation of principal characters, symbols, and scenes is drawn from sources hidden in obscurity for roughly a century and a half. Though African influences predominate, Latin American, European, and North American influences are also woven masterfully into the design of the novella. As emphases among them shift back and forth, Melville's art, stunning in its range and subtlety, shimmers with previously undisclosed brilliance. Targeting how he conceived and executed his art, we find in this volume a degree of heretofore unprobed intertexuality in his own work and reveal the other volumes that informed his creative process.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 168 pages
  • 158 x 238 x 22mm | 399.16g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195372700
  • 9780195372700

Review quote

With the eloquence of a poet and the erudition of a scholar, historian Sterling Stuckey employs cross-disciplinary methods in this brilliant analysis of the African sources and intertextual resonances in Herman Melville's oeuvre. This definitive study deepens our understanding of the writer's creative genius * Miriam DeCosta-Willis, University of Maryland, Baltimore County * Our greatest scholar of African American culture finds a kindred spirit in our greatest nineteenth-century novelist. If you want to know how African the roots of American culture are, from the blues to Melville, this marvelous, adventuresome and elegant book is for you. * David R. Roediger, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign * Studying Melville's artful treatment of Douglass, Dupuis, Delano, and Bowditch, Professor Stuckey expands and deepens our knowledge of Melville's creative employment of African culture in Benito Cereno and Moby-Dick. Stuckey's book is full of discoveries along freshly mapped paths that invite our further investigation. * Frederick Bernard, Aquinas College * In African Culture and Melville's Art, Sterling Stuckey brings his extraordinary talents as a historian and critic to bear on Herman Melville, and in the process he gives us brilliant and original readings of Moby-Dick, Benito Cereno, and Melville's world. It is a stunning achievement and should be required reading for anyone interested in American culture. * John Stauffer, Harvard University * Revisiting Melville's New York and Albany neighborhoods, Sterling Stuckey has given us a stunning reconstruction of the genesis of Moby-Dick and Benito Cereno. His Melville is an 'Africanist' in the best sense: in frequent contact with Ashantee culture, and inspired by the music and dance of the slaves to forge his own poetics of cheer and gloom. * Wai Chee Dimock, Yale University *show more

About Sterling Stuckey

Sterling Stucky is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at University Of California, Riverside. Intensely interdisciplinary work has enabled Stuckey to pioneer scholarship in History, Music, Dance, Folklore, Religion, and Literature-all areas of study that inform his work on Melville. By bringing the insights of several disciplines to bear on major questions, he is able to discover unique pathways to understanding. His methodology is a reflection of the lived experience of growing up in southern black communities where the arts especially are integrated and at the core of the historical experience.show more

Table of contents

Introduction ; 1. The Tambourine in Glory ; 2. Benito Cereno and Moby Dick ; 3. The Hatchet-Polishers, Benito Cereno, and Amasa Delano ; 4. Cheer and Gloom: Frederick Douglass and Herman Melville on Slave Music and Dance ; Appendix: Chapter XVI from Captain Amasa Delano's A Narrative of Voyages and Travelsshow more

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