February 4, 2007

Melville's Relation to American Society

"True it is, of course, that Melville, even in his failures, is almost always an adroit artist, and as many have noted, there are moments of undeniable power in Benito Cereno. But looked at objectively...but rather notions of black primitivism dear to the hearts of slavery's apologists, a sublimination in fact of all that was sleazy, patronizing, backward and fearful in the works that preceded it" (Keesey 64).

I am not surprised that there is some sort of a racial motive behind Benito Cereno, but overall, I think that it is necessary to discuss it. I am glad that we can relate this racial issue to authorial intent. As a criticism, however, I really think that Kaplan used a lot of filler on the specific characters, and did not use enough application to the literature, and the overall intent of the author. There seems to be too much character analysis, and not enough about the literature and the intent of the author until the end of the criticism. There are multiple questions that are asked, and not enough answers that were given. I personally think that this was a weak criticism, that looks racially through the characters, instead of the characters' traits and the language used behind the text. The one concept that was effective toward the critical essay is the focus of the historical aspect of Herman Melville's time period, which focuses more on the society and how it relates to Melville's thinking. There were some positive points overall to the Kaplan piece, but like most criticisms, there are multiple things that could help the essay.

Posted by The Gentle Giant at February 4, 2007 3:30 PM

I agree - I am completely pro looking back at the text rather than the historical aspect.

I think it is one of the hard things with discovering author intent - how much of it is looking at the text (close reading style) and how much of it is studying what affected the text?

Posted by: Diana Geleskie at February 8, 2007 2:47 PM

I'm glad you brought that up - could one almost look at Kaplan's work as a study in racial viewpoint? As we've all learned, it has become increasing difficult to masque one's biases, and I feel as though Kaplan was attempting to play the race issue, which tends to be an emotional issue, rather than an issue of textuality.

As I always say - we can't rely entirely on history, because history is pop-culture and is driven by the people. It tells part, not the whole story.

Posted by: Kevin at February 8, 2007 4:44 PM

Looking at a viewpoint with authorial intent is very difficult to do, and one of the ways that helps me is considering the intention for the society the author is writing for.

Posted by: Jason Pugh at February 22, 2007 12:40 AM
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