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

Hardcover (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $7.98
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 95%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (10) from $7.98   
  • New (5) from $67.57   
  • Used (5) from $7.98   


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.

Read More Show Less

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

Read More Show Less

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
Read More Show Less

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
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
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)