The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives / Edition 1

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Overview

With long, solitary periods at sea, far from literary and cultural centers, sailors comprise a remarkable population of readers and writers. Although their contributions have been little recognized in literary history, seamen were important figures in the nineteenth-century American literary sphere. In the first book to explore their unique contribution to literary culture, Hester Blum examines the first-person narratives of working sailors, from little-known sea tales to more famous works by Herman Melville, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, and Richard Henry Dana.

In their narratives, sailors wrote about how their working lives coexisted with—indeed, mutually drove—their imaginative lives. Even at leisure, they were always on the job site. Blum analyzes seamen's libraries, Barbary captivity narratives, naval memoirs, writings about the Galapagos Islands, Melville's sea vision, and the crisis of death and burial at sea. She argues that the extent of sailors' literacy and the range of their reading were unusual for a laboring class, belying the popular image of Jack Tar as merely a swaggering, profane, or marginal figure. As Blum demonstrates, seamen's narratives propose a method for aligning labor and contemplation that has broader applications for the study of American literature and history.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A dense, highly intellectual study of American sea writing in the first half of the nineteenth century. . . . Provocative and thoughtful."—Maryland Historical Magazine

"[An] intelligently argued book."—International Journal of Maritime History

"Essential reading for those interested in the sea and in narrative theory."—The Journal of American History

"A rich meditation on the literary culture of early national and antebellum sailors and the cultural work their narratives performed."—New England Quarterly

"A much-needed literary and cultural critic's perspective."—American Historical Review

"Thanks to this fascinating and informative study, it is as difficult to conceive of maritime literature without sailor narratives as it is to remember that the contributions of sailors to literary culture have until this moment gone unrecognized in liter

From the Publisher
"A dense, highly intellectual study of American sea writing in the first half of the nineteenth century. . . . Provocative and thoughtful."
Maryland Historical Magazine

"Thanks to this fascinating and informative study, it is as difficult to conceive of maritime literature without sailor narratives as it is to remember that the contributions of sailors to literary culture have until this moment gone unrecognized in literary history."
Common-Place

"Essential reading for those interested in the sea and in narrative theory."
The Journal of American History

"A rich meditation on the literary culture of early national and antebellum sailors and the cultural work their narratives performed."
New England Quarterly

"A much-needed literary and cultural critic's perspective."
American Historical Review

This is an impressive, substantial, well-written book that engages a wide range of criticism and makes an important contribution to many fields in American studies.
&#151Shelley S. Streeby, University of California, San Diego

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807858554
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 2/25/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Hester Blum is associate professor of English at Pennsylvania State University.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
Part I. The Sea Narrative and Sailors' Literary Culture
Chapter 1. The Literati of the Galley
Chapter 2. Barbary Captivity and Intra-Atlantic Print Culture
Chapter 3. Naval Memoirs and the Literary Marketplace
Part II. Maritime Epistemology and Crisis
Chapter 4. The Sea Eye
Chapter 5. The Galapagos and the Evolution of the Maritime Imagination
Chapter 6. From Preface to Postscript: Death and Burial at Sea
Afterword
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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