Melville and Repose: The Rhetoric of Humor in the American Renaissance

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Overview

John Bryant's book is a strong and significant argument for the centrality of the comic and repose in Melville's novels. The purpose of Melville and Repose is dual: to ground the uses of romantic humor in Melville in sensitive readings of contemporaneous European and American writings, and to offer a definitive account of the comic as the shaping force of Melville's narrative voice throughout the major phase of his literary career. Bryant argues that Melville fused a "rhetoric of geniality" and "picturesque sensibility" adopted from the British with a "rhetoric of deceit" borrowed from the American tall tale in order to create his own amiably cosmopolitan "rhetoric of aesthetic repose." Thorough research into American culture and recent Melville manuscript findings, an engaging style, and full, scholarly readings combine to make this historicist study a welcome addition to the libraries of Americanists and Melville scholars and enthusiasts.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bryant offers unique and ground-breaking readings of Melville's work....Thorough research into American culture and recent Melville manuscript findings, an engaging style, and full, scholarly readings combine to make this historicist study a welcome addition to the libraries of Americanists and Melville scholars and enthusiasts."—American Renaissance Literary Report

"Written in a lively and engaging style but incorporating an impressive degree of scholarly research, not only into the corpus of Melville scholarship but also the history and culture of the Renaissance, Melville and Repose is a major contribution to thought about the nature of America's first literary flowering."—American Studies

"Thoughtful inquirers into pre-Civil War American humor will need to read this book, which also bears on the 1840-1890 period not mentioned."—To Wit

"This is overall a rich and engaging analysis."—American Literature

"...the book informs, provokes, and satisfies, and not just because it reveals much about Melville and about American comic literature. It also provides a model of critical practive...that moves easily through the most minute of concrete detail but never loses sight of larger critical and theoretical concerns. It sustains the kind of intellectual balance that Melville himself sought in an elegant, but tense, repose that reflects the deep thought of laughter."—Nineteenth Century Literature

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195077827
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 6/28/1997
  • Pages: 336
  • Lexile: 1310L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Hofstra University
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Table of Contents

Abbreviations for Frequently Cited Sources
1 A Great Intellect in Repose 3
Humor and Being 6
Melville's Aesthetics of Repose 8
Melville's Rhetoric: Voicing the Voiceless 19
Melville and the Reader: "Lord when shall we be done changing?" 27
I America's Comic Debate
2 America's Repose 33
Britain's Amiable Tradition 34
Amiability on Native Ground 41
3 The Example of Irving 52
Irving's Comic Debate 53
Salmagundi and Some Versions of the Bachelor 55
A Rip in the Canvas: Irving's Picturesque 63
Irving's Goldsmith and the Rhetoric of Geniality 66
4 Playing Along: America and the Rhetoric of Deceit 70
The Deep Thought of Laughter 70
A Veracious History of Lying 72
The Lie of our Land: Forms of Comic Lying 82
5 E. A. Poe and T. B. Thorpe: Two Models of Deceit 88
Poe's Humor 88
Thorpe's Big Bear 100
6 The Genial Misanthrope: Melville and The Cosmopolitan Ideal 109
Melville's Cosmopolite 110
Europe's Cosmopolite: "At Home in Every Place" 112
America's Con Man Cosmopolite: "Nowhere a Stranger" 116
Herman Melville: "Diogenes Masquerading as a Cosmopolitan" 127
II Rhetoric and Repose
Typee
7 The Anxieties of Humor 131
Reliability and the Amiable Rebel 134
Tommo's Picturesque 139
Tommo's Amiable Eden 140
8 Typee in Manuscript 146
Drama and Restraint 146
Finding Voice: Transcription, Transformation, and Translation 152
Forging Ideology: Melville and "Little Henry" 157
9 Tommo's Rhetoric of Deceit 161
Tattoo, Taboo, and Cannibalism: Forms of Conversion 162
Tommo Prometheus 165
Baffled Scientist and Con Man Revivalist 174
Rover and Cosmopolite 178
Moby Dick
10 Ishmael: Sounding the Repose of If 186
Ishmael's Initiation: Narcissist and Cosmopolite 187
Knowledge and Voice 192
Finding Voice: Ishmael's Genial Desperation 199
Pondering Repose 204
11 Ahab: Personifying the Impersonal 209
"What Cozening, Hidden Lord and Master" 212
Displaced Fools 219
On the Margin of the Maelstrom 228
12 Melville's Comedy of Doubt 230
Melville's Reader: Partner, Victim, Participant 231
Allegory and Breakdown 234
The Confidence-Man
13 Comic Debates: The Uses of Cosmopolite 244
Pitch: The False Misanthropist 245
Charlie Noble: The False Genialist 250
Charlemont: The Genial Misanthrope 261
Coda: Something Further 265
Notes 269
Index 299
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