Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine

Exiled Royalties: Melville and the Life We Imagine

by Robert Milder
     
 

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Exiled Royalties is a literary/biographical study of the course of Melville's career from his experience in Polynesia through his retirement from the New York Custom House and his composition of three late volumes of poetry and Billy Budd, Sailor. Conceived separately but narratively and thematically intertwined, the ten essays in the book are rooted in a belief

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Overview

Exiled Royalties is a literary/biographical study of the course of Melville's career from his experience in Polynesia through his retirement from the New York Custom House and his composition of three late volumes of poetry and Billy Budd, Sailor. Conceived separately but narratively and thematically intertwined, the ten essays in the book are rooted in a belief that "Melville's work," as Charles Olson said, "must be left in his own 'life,'" which for Milder means primarily his spiritual, psychological, and vocational life. Four of the ten essays deal with Melville's life and work after his novelistic career ended with the The Confidence-Man in 1857. The range of issues addressed in the essays includes Melville's attitudes toward society, history, and politics, from broad ideas about democracy and the course of Western civilization to responses to particular events like the Astor Place Riots and the Civil War; his feeling about sexuality and, throughout the book, about religion; his relationship to past and present writers, especially to the phases of Euro-American Romanticism, post-Romanticism, and nascent Modernism; his relationship to his wife, Lizzie, to Hawthorne, and to his father, all of whom figured in the crisis that made for Pierre. The title essay, "Exiled Royalties," takes its origin from Ishmael's account of "the larger, darker, deeper part of Ahab"—Melville's mythic projection of a "larger, darker, deeper part" of himself. How to live nobly in spiritual exile—to be godlike in the perceptible absence of God—was a lifelong preoccupation for Melville, who, in lieu of positive belief, transposed the drama of his spiritual life to literature. The ways in which this impulse expressed itself through Melville's forty-five year career, interweaving itself with his personal life and the life of the nation and shaping both the matter and manner of his work, is the unifying subject of Exiled Royalties.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A magisterial work from one of our very best readers of Melville. Robert Milder's beautifully written essays illuminate Melville's views on history, politics, sexuality and religion. But most importantly, they illuminate the grand reach of Melville's tragic art."—Robert Levine, University of Maryland.

"Combining shrewd social and historical analysis with rare psychological, intellectual, and moral insight, these essays, seeking to understand Melville's writing from, as it were, the inside out—form enabling, not just representing, the life imagined—recall the very best criticism of an F. O. Matthiessen or a Newton Arvin. This is creation of its own, in Byron's words, living 'a being more intense.'"—Giles Gunn, University of California, Santa Barbara

"Exiled Royalties brings us closer than we have ever been to our most profound and most mysterious novelist. Robert Milder brilliantly measures Melville's literary works against what we can know of his inner life, in a finely crafted and absorbing narrative. Milder explains Melville's early encounter with Polynesia as the catalyst for a transformation that unmoored Melville intellectually, and disquieted him emotionally, eventually unlocking and shaping his powerful literary imagination."—David M. Robinson, Oregon State University

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195142327
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
01/05/2006
Edition description:
ANN
Pages:
310
Product dimensions:
9.20(w) x 6.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Milder is Professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis.

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