March 12, 2007

Elementary my dear Watson!

Ok no, this entry is not about Sherlock Holmes, but it is about a mystery. When I first read Melville's "Benito Cereno" I never thought to look at the story as a (very dense) mystery. I knew that the novella had some sort of foreshadowing going on, however never once did I think to become a detective and sniff out the clues. Swann quotes Chandler saying:

...the point of the mystery story is that it is two stories in one: The story of what happened and the story of what appeared to have happened.

I completely agree with this statement as referred to "Benito Cereno" because the story of what happened comes at the end of the novella and the story of what appeared to happen comes from our wonderful Captain Delano. This is very interesting to me because I have read many mystery novels in my time as a recreational reader and the characteristics of the genre all show up in this short story. It is just as Dr. Jerz said - Swann was able to see something that no one else probably saw.

Swann goes on to say that:

By using Chandler I am trying to show that serious political meanings are being mediated through the form of the mystery story - and that many of the conventionaly critical problems have to be reformulated when "Benito Cereno" is located within the genre.

In the above quote Swann is showing how the political happenings in "Benito Cereno" that everyone is able to see can be seen in a different light. The intertextuality here appears because we are using a different genre than many others believe is the way to look at the short story. I think it is actually genius that he came up with this idea. He does emphasize throughout his essay that in order to get a full understanding of the short story as a mystery text one must reread the story and look for the clues that are provided as well as to be able to distance one self from the character of Delano who will become the "dectective's assistant" while the reader becomes the detective. Just your regular Sherlock/Watson combination.

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

Posted by Tiffany Brattina at March 12, 2007 1:55 PM | TrackBack
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