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Title page for ETD etd-07032012-115958

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Samuel, Petal Kimberly
Author's Email Address petal.k.samuel@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-07032012-115958
Title “A Subtler Expression”: Melville's Historiography of the Non-Event
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Dr. Colin Dayan Committee Chair
  • Historiography of the Haitian Revolution
  • Caribbean historiography
  • Caribbean studies
Date of Defense 2012-08-10
Availability unrestricted
This paper examines Herman Melville’s Pierre, and the novel’s critical reception, in order to investigate and theorize the relevance of Melville’s work for Caribbean writers and historians. This work will contend that the mode in which Melville engages with historical archives, pushes the boundaries between fiction and history, and troubles traditional historiographical techniques of his time is central to the attractiveness of Melville’s works for peoples whose histories were in the process of, and continue to be in the process of, being vigorously suppressed. Melville practices a mode of literary historiography that bears distinct convergences with the historiographical techniques of Caribbean writers like CLR James, Aimé Césaire and Michel-Rolph Trouillot. Furthermore, I examine the critical reception of Melville’s narrative as exemplary of a public discourse of suppression that exposes not only the mechanisms of power in the production of both history and literature, but also the cultural, political, and ideological anxieties of a mid-19th century United States on the brink on civil war.
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