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February 19, 2007

EL312: Melville's meaningful ambiguity: Bad reader

I don't know if it's shallow of me to like the large headings in the text, but I was nostalgic for textbooks for days of yore when I read the O'Connell essay... (Anyone want to reminisce about old textbooks? I didn't think so...)

Anyway, I find it amusing when critics cite each other or cite a number of their colleagues in an article... It makes me think of a hesaid/shesaid type of thing where the conclusion is derived by what isn't discussed.

In the tension between what we are led to expect and what we get (or don't get), Haegert finds the text's meaning. He believes that the discrepancy constitutes Melville's critique of narrative in general. He finds a "remarkable confluence in Benito Cereno, of ideological critique and narrative open-endedness... For it is not only ambiguity or silence which occupies Melville's narrative, nor simply the ideological blindness of his central characters. Far more fundamental to the work's subversive movement is a deep-seated suspicion of the dynamics of narrative itself" (187).

(Sidenote: Shouldn't that chunk of quote be blocked in the text? Maybe Keesey has different guidelines than MLA...)

O'Connell quotes John Haegert extensively in this section of the essay, relying on his positions on Melville's ambiguous writing. Haegert sets up the idea that Melville requires a "bad" reader to create a "misreading" (187).

While I see why O'Connell would use this quote, I'm not sure I'm won over with the idea of writing a bad reader's role right into the text--isn't that a screwy version of author intent, and not reader response (especially if the reader isn't being given a chance to respond...)?

O'Connell, ''Narrative Collusion and Occlusion in Melville's 'Benito Cereno''' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at February 19, 2007 4:06 PM


I think O'Connell actually implicates that almost everyone who reads Melville's bag of wind is an uninformed reader who is destined to be led down a path of doom by Delano.

I had a different take upon reading Cereno, one O'Connell would question.

Posted by: Dave Moio at February 21, 2007 9:42 PM

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