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March 12, 2007

Morally and Intellectually Enlightening

Swann, ''Whodunnit? Or, Who Did What? 'Benito Cereno' and the Politics of Narrative Structure'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

"The point is - or should be - simple: slavery damages your moral health - whether you are a slaveowner or a slave" (324).

I found the moral ideas brought up in this text just as intriguing as the intertexual approach it was taking with regards to "Benito Cereno" in terms of literary criticism. I think this essay could have fit nicely into the race unit in Thinking and Writing that we all took freshman year.

Anyway, I think Swann made a some enlightening points through the use of Melville's other works as well as Delano's Narrative of Voyages and Travels and other mystery stories by Poe and others. I definitely think there is merit in looking at other texts as a means of making discoveries about the works studied. The only concern I have is the same as many formalists probably have - which is focusing too much on outside sources making us forget the work in question. But, if used properly, as I believe Swann has, intertextuality can be a very helpful tool in studying literary works.

Posted by LorinSchumacher at March 12, 2007 9:09 AM


There is something to keeping the work in the forefront of an argument. I think that the best intertextualists make sure that they don't become overly involved with the works they are trying to use their arguments about much like Swann has. I think that Swann has brought out a different way of looking at the story and comparing it than anyone originally thought.

I also agree that it would work well in STW, but only if the students read "Benito Cereno."

Posted by: Tiffany at March 15, 2007 3:54 PM

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