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White Lies : Melville's Narratives of Facts
by John Samson




Overview -

The narrative of facts--probably best exemplified in the literature of exploration--was an immensely popular genre in mid-nineteenth-century America. In White Lies, John Samson offers full contextual readings of Melville's five major narratives of facts--Typee, Omoo, Redburn, White-Jacket, and Israel Potter. Samson demonstrates that in these novels Melville critically rewrote the sources on which he drew, in effect making the genre itself a subject of his writing.

In his introduction, Samson discusses Melville's knowledge of the genre and its ideology. He then reads each novel in terms of Melville's confrontation with its sources. In each, Samson says, an unreliable narrator represents particular ideological tendencies in Melville's sources. Melville heightens and extends these tendencies, exposes the contradictions and biases within them, and ends by showing the narrator evading or denying experiences that conflict with his ideology. According to Samson, Melville sees the concept of historical progress as the basis of these biases and evasions.

In these five novels, Melville reveals the conflict between democratic, humanitarian, and individualistic principles, on the one hand, and the forces of racial superiority, religious bigotry, economic determinism, and political conservatism, on the other. Taken together, Samson asserts, these novels deconstruct the intellectual foundations of the form of historical narration endorsed by white patriarchal culture.

Scholars and students of nineteenth-century American literature, specialists in the novel, and other readers of Melville will welcome Samson's provocative reinterpretation of these key works in American culture.

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More About White Lies by John Samson

 
 
 

Overview

The narrative of facts--probably best exemplified in the literature of exploration--was an immensely popular genre in mid-nineteenth-century America. In White Lies, John Samson offers full contextual readings of Melville's five major narratives of facts--Typee, Omoo, Redburn, White-Jacket, and Israel Potter. Samson demonstrates that in these novels Melville critically rewrote the sources on which he drew, in effect making the genre itself a subject of his writing.

In his introduction, Samson discusses Melville's knowledge of the genre and its ideology. He then reads each novel in terms of Melville's confrontation with its sources. In each, Samson says, an unreliable narrator represents particular ideological tendencies in Melville's sources. Melville heightens and extends these tendencies, exposes the contradictions and biases within them, and ends by showing the narrator evading or denying experiences that conflict with his ideology. According to Samson, Melville sees the concept of historical progress as the basis of these biases and evasions.

In these five novels, Melville reveals the conflict between democratic, humanitarian, and individualistic principles, on the one hand, and the forces of racial superiority, religious bigotry, economic determinism, and political conservatism, on the other. Taken together, Samson asserts, these novels deconstruct the intellectual foundations of the form of historical narration endorsed by white patriarchal culture.

Scholars and students of nineteenth-century American literature, specialists in the novel, and other readers of Melville will welcome Samson's provocative reinterpretation of these key works in American culture.


 

Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801477713
  • ISBN-10: 0801477719
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publish Date: October 2011
  • Page Count: 260
  • Reading Level: Ages 18-UP
  • Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.59 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.73 pounds


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