Melville and the Idea of Blackness

Melville and the Idea of Blackness : Race and Imperialism in Nineteenth Century America

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By examining the unique problems that 'blackness' signifies in Moby-Dick, Pierre, 'Benito Cereno' and 'The Encantadas', Christopher Freeburg analyzes how Herman Melville grapples with the social realities of racial difference in nineteenth-century America. Where Melville's critics typically read blackness as either a metaphor for the haunting power of slavery or an allegory of moral evil, Freeburg asserts that blackness functions as the site where Melville correlates the sociopolitical challenges of transatlantic slavery and US colonial expansion with philosophical concerns about mastery. By focusing on Melville's iconic interracial encounters, Freeburg reveals the important role blackness plays in Melville's portrayal of characters' arduous attempts to seize their own destiny, amass scientific knowledge and perfect themselves. A valuable resource for scholars and graduate students in American literature, this text will also appeal to those working in American, African American and postcolonial studies.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 1139534408
  • 9781139534406

Table of contents

Acknowledgments; Preface: darkening the past; Introduction: resurrecting blackness; 1. Knowing the 'bottomless deep': Moby-Dick; 2. Living 'within the maelstrom': Pierre; 3. Thwarting the 'regulated mind': 'Benito Cereno'; 4. Embodying the 'assaults of time': 'The Encantadas'; Notes.
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About Christopher Freeburg

Christopher Freeburg is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana. He received his PhD from the University of Chicago and his Master's from Stanford University. His work has appeared in journals such as American Literature and Modern Fiction Studies.
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Review quote

'Freeburg's insistence that Melville's representations of race are both historically concrete and philosophically abstract (beating on questions of ontology and epistemology) makes this book crucial for thinking about how Melville's writings address the complex relation between literature and history.' Hennig Cohen Prize Committee, The Melville Society
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