By means of a critical reinterpretation of the famous short story by HermanMelville titled “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” I propose a psycho-anthropological explanation of work behaviors, relationships in work environments, and their psychopathological repercussions. The article notably examines behaviors and work relationships connecting them as outcomes of single individuals' efforts to mentalize ideological–cultural models determining them in a given historical moment. A reductively individualistic interpretation is criticized, which is typically present in clinical and work psychology and ascribes to (...) the single person presumed psychical deficits and exclusively looks in his/her personal history for causes of disadaptive behaviors and antecedents of psychopathological formations. (shrink)
I have three aims in this essay. I want to offer an example of an interdisciplinary historical inquiry combining literary criticism with the relatively new field of critical legal studies. I intend to use this historical inquiry to argue that the ambiguity of literary texts might better be understood in terms of an era’s social contradictions rather than in terms of the inherent qualities of literary language or rhetoric and, conversely, that a text’s ambiguity can help us expose the contradictions (...) masked by an era’s dominant ideology. I try to prove my assertion by applying my method to HermanMelville’s three most famous short works—“Benito Cereno,” “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” and Bill Budd, Sailor—works dealing with the law and lawyers and widely acknowledged as ambiguous.1 I will base my critical inquiry into these stories on Melville’s relationship with his father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, who, while sitting as the chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts from 1830 to 1860, wrote some of the most important opinions in what Roscoe Pound has called “the formative era of American law.”2Before I get started, I should clarify what this study does not entail. By using Shaw and his legal decisions in conjunction with Melville’s fiction, I am not conducting a positivistic influence study. My method will not depend on the positivist assumption that Shaw’s legal opinions can be used to illuminate Melville’s texts only when his direct knowledge of Shaw’s opinions can be proved. Nor will I limit myself to a traditional psychoanalytic reading: my emphasis is on political and social issues, and too often these issues are deflected by translating them into psychological ones. At the same time, I recognize that critics concerned with political and social issues too often neglect questions raised by a writer’s individual situation. I compare Shaw to Melville not to reduce Melville’s politics to psychology but to prevent a political study from neglecting the political implications of psychology, to remind us—as the title of Fredric Jameson’s book The Political Unconscious reminds us—that psychological questions always have political implications. 1. See HermanMelville, “Benito Cereno,” “Bartleby,” and Billy Budd, Sailor, “Billy Budd, Sailor” and Other Stories, ed. Harold Beaver ; all further references to these works will be included in the text.2. See Roscoe Pound, The Formative Era of American Law . For discussions of Melville and Lemuel Shaw, see Charles Roberts Anderson, Melville in the South Seas, Columbia University Studies in English and Comparative Literature, no. 138 , pp. 432-33; Charles H. Foster, “Something in Emblems: A Reinterpretation of Moby-Dick,” New England Quarterly 34 : 3-35; Robert L. Gale, “Bartleby—Melville’s Father-in-Law,” Annali sezione Germanica, Istituto Universitario Orientale di Napoli 5 : 57-72; Keith Huntress, “ ‘Guinea” of White-Jacket and Chief Justice Shaw,” American Literature 43 : 639-41; Carolyn L. Karcher, Shadow over the Promised Land: Slavery, Race and Violence in Melville’s America , pp. 9-11 and 40; John Stark, “Melville, Lemuel Shaw, and ‘Bartleby,’ “ in Bartleby, the Inscrutable: A Collection of Comentary on HermanMelville’s Tale “Bartleby the Scrivener,” ed. M. Thomas Inge , all further references to this work, abbreviated JA, will be included in the text. Brook Thomas teaches English and American literature at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He is the author of James Joyce’s “Ulysses”: A Book of Many Happy Returns and is at work on a study of the relations between law and literature in antebellum America. (shrink)
Melville's Benito Cereno (1855) concentrates a historico-political problematic in the figure of a ship named 〉SAN DOMINICK〈. This paper focuses on the distinctive political character of the slave ship in revolt. The partisan uprising produces an interrogation of the concept of sovereignty and the operations of exclusion on which it is premised. Superimposing the sovereign ship of state and the slave ship, Melville's novella presents a relation constitutive of the Atlantic world.
Si « presque toutes les œuvres de fiction marquantes transmettent un “message” ou des “messages” qui sont transmis par le texte mais ne sont pas dans le texte », comment les écritures romanesques génèrent-elles des significations et des jugements sur la réalité? Sans prétendre donner une réponse péremptoire à cette question, nous pouvons émettre l’hypothèse que lorsque nous imaginons des transferts sémantiques dont les figures d’un récit littéraire peuvent être les vecteurs, nous sommes conf...
This review confirms Herman’s work as a praiseworthy contribution to East-West and comparative philosophical literature. Due credit is given to Herman for providing English readers with access to Buber’s commentary on, a personal translation of, the Chuang-Tzu; Herman’s insight into the later influence of I and Thou on Buber’s understanding of Chuang-Tzu and Taoism is also appropriately commended. In latter half of this review, constructive criticisms of Herman’s work are put forward, such as formatting inconsistencies, a (...) tendency toward verbosity and jargon, and a neglect of seemingly important hermeneutical issues. Such issues, seemingly substantive but neglected by Herman, are the influence of Buber’s prior familiarity with Hasidic teachings on his encounter with Chuang-Tzu, as well as the prevalence of Hasidic and Taoist thought in Buber’s conception of good and evil. (shrink)
HermanMelville was so estranged from the religious beliefs of his time and place that his faith was doubted during his own lifetime. In the middle of the twentieth century some scholars even associated him with nihilism. To date, however, no one has offered a detailed account of Melville in relation to Nietzsche, who ﬁrst made nihilism a topic of serious concern to the Western philosophical tradition. In this essay, I discuss some of the hitherto unexplored similarities (...) between Melville’s ideas and Nietzsche’s reﬂections on and reactions to the death of God and the advent of nihilism in the West. (shrink)
_Philosophy Beside Itself _ was first published in 1986. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions. The writings of French philosopher Jacques Derrida have been the single most powerful influence on critical theory and practice in the United States over the past decade. But with few exceptions American philosophers have taken little or no interest in Derrida's work, and the task of reception, (...) translation, and commentary has been left to literary critics. As a result, Derrida has appeared as a figure already defined by essentially literary critical activities and interests. Stephen Melville's aim in _Philosophy Beside Itself _ is to insist upon and clarify the distinctions between philosophy and criticism. He argues that until we grasp Derrida's philosophical project as such, we remain fundamentally unable to see his significance for criticism. In terms derived from Stanley Cavell's writings on modernism, Melville develops a case for Derrida as a modernist philosopher, working at once within and against that tradition and discipline. Melville first places Derrida in a Hegelian context, the structure of which he explores by examining the work of Heidegger, Lacan, and Bataille. With this foundation, he is able to reappraise the project of deconstructive criticism as developed in Paul de Man's _Blindness and Insight _and further articulated by other Yale critics. Central to this critique is the ambivalent relationship between deconstructive criticism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. Criticism—radical self-criticism—is a central means through which the difficult facts of human community come to recognition, and Melville argues for criticism as an activity intimately bound to the ways in which we do and do not belong in time and in community. Derrida's achievement has been to find a new and necessary way to assert that the task of philosophy is criticism; the task of literary criticism is to assume the burden of that achievement. Stephen Melville is an assistant professor of English at Syracuse University, and Donald Marshall is a professor of English at the University of Iowa. (shrink)
Psychoanalysis has, in the very nature of its object, an interest in and difficulty with the concept of place as well as an interest in and difficulty with the logic of place, topology. The Unconscious can thus seem to give rise to a certain prospect of mathesis or formalization; and such formalization, achieved, would offer a ground for the psychoanalytic claim to scientific knowledge relatively independent of empirical questions and approaching the condition of mathematics. This might then seem to have (...) been Lacan’s wager in organizing the researches of his école around works of theoretical elaboration rather than clinical study; certainly some such notion must underlie Miller’s claim to be “axiomatic.”1In this paper I want to explore some of Lacan’s formalizations as they are unfolded in the seminar Encore. 2 I will in effect be looking at the place of place or places in psychoanalysis—in particular, I will be looking at the place of jouissance in Lacan’s psychoanalysis and at the places of what Lacan punningly calls jouis-sens. The joint problematic here might be called one of “enjoymeant,” combining the logic of pleasure with the pleasure of logic. For Lacan, questions of jouissance, however punned, are questions of unity and selfhood, so in examining the reciprocal play of pleasure and sense I will be examining how Lacanian psychoanalysis secures itself in place. This last topic touches implicitly in Encore on questions of legacy and inheritance, so in the end I will also have something to say about the limits Lacan’s formalizations would impose on our enjoyment of Freud. I should note in advance that Encore, Lacan’s seminar of 1972-73, is an extraordinarily compact and involuted text, even by his standards, and of a corresponding richness, weaving sustained meditations on such figures as Georges Bataille, Roman Jakobson, Kierkegaard, and Aquinas with “mathemystical” digressions on sexuality, discourse, Borromean knots, and the like. The reading offered here is perforce schematic. 1. By and large the evidences of the Lacanian clinic are closed to us in consequence of Lacan’s insistence on theoretical elaboration. But it should not go unremarked that much of the work of Lacan’s school seems to have focused on areas traditionally recalcitrant to psychoanalytic treatment—alcoholism, retardation, and psychosis—and that such an emphasis is responsive to traditional empirically minded critiques of the limits of psychoanalysis.2. It should perhaps be noted in this context that the project of a genuinely public presentation of Lacan’s seminars seems to have been abandoned in favor of the more circumscribed circulation of texts through the Lacanian journal Ornicar? Stephen Melville is assistant professor of English at Syracuse University. He is the author of Philosophy Beside Itself: On Deconstruction and Modernism and is currently completing a series of essays on postmodern art and criticism. (shrink)
Resumen La imagen de Moby Dick de HermanMelville, novela fundacional de la narrativa estadounidense, tiene su origen en las costas del sur chileno. El repertorio precedente de la obra literaria propuesto por Wolfgang Iser presenta un proceso en el que se producen diferentes versiones del mito. La novela gráfica Mocha Dick, con textos de Francisco Ortega y dibujos de Gonzalo Martínez, es una de esas versiones. La historieta chilena plantea un diálogo con los textos precedentes y propone (...) una revisión de Melville y de los orígenes de la legendaria ballena blanca.The image of HermanMelville’s Moby Dick, foundational novel of the American narrative, is originated in the southern chilean sea. The repertory that precedes the literary work proposed by Wolfgang Iser presents a process in which different versions of the myth are written. The graphic novel Mocha Dick by Francisco Ortega and Gonzalo Martínez is one of these versions of the myth. The chilean comic dialogues with the previous texts and proposes a review of Melville´s and the origins of the legendary white whale. (shrink)
Moby-Dick as Philosophy is at base a chapter-by-chapter commentary on HermanMelville’s masterwork, Moby-Dick. The commentary form of the book subserves a higher end, the presentation of an ideal of the type philosopher. Superimposing portraits of Plato, Melville, and Nietzsche—the thinkers themselves, their ideas and their lives—it generates a composite image from the overlaying and interblending of figures. At a higher level still, the book is a meditation on the nature of philosophy and its relation to wisdom, (...) and the relation of creative artistry to both. It explores these themes in the context of the history of philosophy conceived as the rise and fall of a certain influential variety of Platonism—in Nietzschean terms, the life and death of God—and it proceeds with reference to the different reactions, as exemplified particularly by Melville and Nietzsche, to the nihilism that looms on the horizon of these intellectual and spiritual revolutions. (shrink)
Faced with an increasingly media-saturated, globalized culture, art historians have begun to ask themselves challenging and provocative questions about the nature of their discipline. Why did the history of art come into being? Is it now in danger of slipping into obsolescence? And, if so, should we care? In _Writing Art History_, Margaret Iversen and Stephen Melville address these questions by exploring some assumptions at the discipline’s foundation. Their project is to excavate the lost continuities between philosophical aesthetics, contemporary (...) theory, and art history through close readings of figures as various as Michael Baxandall, Martin Heidegger, Jacques Lacan, and Alois Riegl. Ultimately, the authors propose that we might reframe the questions concerning art history by asking what kind of writing might help the discipline to better imagine its actual practices—and its potential futures. (shrink)
Figures of Simplicity explores a unique constellation of figures from philosophy and literature—Heinrich von Kleist, HermanMelville, G. W. Leibniz, and Alexander Baumgarten—in an attempt to recover alternative conceptions of aesthetics and dimensions of thinking lost in the disciplinary narration of aesthetics after Kant. This is done primarily by tracing a variety of “simpletons” that populate the writings of Kleist and Melville. These figures are not entirely ignorant, or stupid, but simple. Their simplicity is a way of (...) thinking, one that Birgit Mara Kaiser suggests is affective thinking. Kaiser avers that Kleist and Melville are experimenting in their texts with an affective mode of thinking, and thereby continue a key line within eighteenth-century aesthetics: the relation of rationality and sensibility. Through her analyses, she offers an outline of what thinking can look like if we take affectivity into account. (shrink)
While Billy Budd's beauty has often been connected to his innocence and his moral goodness, the significance of the musical character of his beauty—what I will argue is the site of a struggle for political expression—has not been remarked upon by commentators of Melville's novella. It has, however, been deeply explored by Britten's opera. Music has often been situated at, or just beyond, the limits of communication; it has served as a medium of the ineffable, of unsaid and unsayable (...) truths (and lies), of an expressive power beyond language and reason. It is this expressive but communicatively problematic role that Billy embodies and that Billy Budd sets into political motion. In this essay, I would like to suggest that Billy's musical beauty can only be fully appreciated, and assumes full significance, when considered within the context of the various conceptions of beauty, and corresponding conceptions of authority, presented in the novella and in the opera. In particular, I will argue that Billy's beauty is a modern one that calls for the active participation of its audience. (shrink)
In this essay, Chaya Herman explores the interaction between two powerful global dynamics that have affected educational institutions and society at large: one is neoliberalism, with its attendant notions of marketization and managerialism; the other is the resurgence of ethnic and religious, often fundamentalist, communities in the search for identity. The essay is based on a larger research project that explores the profound effects of the ideological and managerial restructuring process in Johannesburg’s Jewish community schools, the broader context for (...) which has been South Africa’s transformation to democracy. Herman suggests that these two dynamics are synergetic forces and that their accumulated effect has the power to shift the discourse of the community toward ghettoization and toward the creation of a homogenous community founded on a narrowly defined common identity. (shrink)
Making room for character -- Pluralism and the community of moral judgment -- A cosmopolitan kingdom of ends --Responsibility and moral competence --Can virtue be taught?: the problem of new moral facts -- Training to autonomy: Kant and the question of moral education -- Bootstrapping -- Rethinking Kant's hedonism -- The scope of moral requirement -- The will and its objects -- Obligatory ends -- Moral improvisation -- Contingency in obligation.
Richard Henson attempts to take the sting out of this view of Kant on moral worth by arguing (i) that attending to the phenomenon of the overdetermination of actions leads one to see that Kant might have had two distinct views of moral worth, only one of which requires the absence of cooperating inclinations, and (ii) that when Kant insists that there is moral worth only when an action is done from the motive of duty alone, he need not also (...) hold that such a state of affairs is morally better, all things considered, than one where supporting inclination is present. Henson's proposals seem to me both serious and plausible. I do not think that either of his models, in the end, can take on the role Kant assigns to moral worth in the argument of the Groundwork. But seeing the ways Henson's account diverges from Kant's makes clearer what Kant intended in his discussion of those actions he credits with moral worth. [...] An action has moral worth if it is required by duty and has as its primary motive the motive of duty. The motive of duty need not reflect the only interest the agent has in the action (or its effect); it must, however, be the interest that determines the agent's acting as he did. (shrink)
“Now, in calm weather, to swim in the open ocean is as easy to the practised swimmer as to ride in a spring-carriage ashore. But the awful lonesomeness is intolerable. The intense concentration of self in the middle of such a heartless immensity, my God! who can tell it? Mark, how when sailors in a dead calm bathe in the open sea—mark how closely they hug their ship and only coast along her sides.” (HermanMelville, Moby Dick, Chapter (...) 94). (shrink)
Most of us have been brought up on the idea that moral theories divide as they are, at the root, either deontological or consequentialist. A new point of division has been emerging that places deontological and consequentialist theories together against theories of virtue, or a conception of morality constrained at the outset by the requirements of the “personal.” In a series of important essays Bernard Williams has offered striking arguments for the significance of the personal in moral thought based on (...) the role of integrity in human activity and character. His criticisms of both Kantian and utilitarian theories for their deep-seated tendencies to undermine the integrity of persons brings to a new level of seriousness and subtlety long-standing complaints against these theories—the invasive do-gooding of utilitarianism, the coldness and severity toward normal human concerns of Kantian theory. Although Williams is inclined to find the sources of the attack on integrity in these different features of the two traditional theories, in the end his complaint against both of them turns on their demand that the moral agent submit himself to the authority of impartial value. (shrink)
If, as Kant says, "the will is practical reason", we should think of willing as a mode of reasoning, and its activity represented in movement from evaluative premises to intention by way of a validity-securing principle of inference. Such a view of willing takes motive and rational choice out of empirical psychology, thereby eliminating grounds for many familiar objections to Kant's account of morally good action. The categorical imperative provides the fundamental principle of valid practical inference; however, for good willing, (...) we also require correct premises. These come from specifications of the two obligatory ends - our own perfection and the happiness of others. Interpreting good willing as good reasoning not only fits well with Kant's metaphysics of free action, it also offers a sound method for reasoning to and about individual as well as role-dependent moral obligations. (shrink)
In HermanMelville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener, the narrator finds himself involved in a moral relation with the title character whose sense he finds difficult to articulate. I argue that we can make sense of this relation, up to a certain point, in terms of the influential account of obligation that Stephen Darwall advances in The Second-Person Standpoint. But I also argue that there is a dimension of moral sense in the relation that is not captured by Darwall’s account, (...) or indeed by any of the accounts of obligation that have been most prominent in the history of western philosophy from the early modern period up to the present. More specifically, I argue that what is brought out in the relation between Bartleby and the narrator is the separation of the experience of moral necessitation from the rule that would give its content. I attempt to show that this obligation without rule is a genuine moral phenomenon and that we can begin to understand it in terms of the ideas of love, singularity, and potentiality as these are developed in the work of Giorgio Agamben. (shrink)
We dispute Penn et al.'s claim of the sharp functional discontinuity between humans and nonhumans with evidence in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) of higher-order generalizations: spontaneous integration of previously learned rules and concepts in response to novel stimuli. We propose that species-general explanations that are in approach are more plausible than Penn et al.'s innatist approach of a genetically prespecified supermodule.
Clinical experience suggests that adult survivors of childhood trauma arrive at their memories in a number of ways, with varying degrees of associated distress and uncertainty and, in some cases, after memory lapses of varying duration and extent. Among those patients who enter psychotherapy as a result of early abuse, three general patterns of traumatic recall are identified: relatively continuous and complete recall of childhood abuse experiences coupled with changing interpretations of these experiences, partial amnesia for abuse events, accompanied by (...) a mixture of delayed recall and delayed understanding, and delayed recall following a period of profound and pervasive amnesia. These patterns are represented by three composite clinical vignettes. Variations among them suggest that the phenomena underlying traumatic recall are continuous not dichotomous. Future research into the nature of traumatic memory should be informed by clinical observation. (shrink)
Confucianism is a kind of humanism. Confucian humanism presupposes, however, a divisive act that separates human and nonhuman. This paper shows that the split between the human and the nonhuman is central to Mencius' moral psychology, and it argues that Confucianism is an anthropological machine in the sense of the term used by Giorgio Agamben. I consider the main points of early Daoist critique of Confucian humanism. A comparative analysis of HermanMelville's novella 'Bartleby the Scrivener' reveals the (...) limitation of the moral will in Mencius. Finally, I refer to an incident that recently captured the imagination of Chinese netizens, and shows the contested influence of Confucian humanism in contemporary China. (shrink)
Europe's leading existential thinkers -- Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus -- all felt that Americans were too self-confident and shallow to accept their philosophy of responsibility, choice, and the absurd. "There is no pessimism in America regarding human nature and social organization," Sartre remarked in 1950, while Beauvoir wrote that Americans had no "feeling for sin and for remorse" and Camus derided American materialism and optimism. Existentialism, however, enjoyed rapid, widespread, and enduring popularity among Americans. No less (...) than their European counterparts, American intellectuals participated in the conversation of existentialism. In Existential America , historian George Cotkin argues that the existential approach to life, marked by vexing despair and dauntless commitment in the face of uncertainty, has deep American roots and helps to define the United States in the twentieth-century in ways that have never been fully realized or appreciated. As Cotkin shows, not only did Americans readily take to existentialism, but they were already heirs to a rich tradition of thinkers -- from Jonathan Edwards and HermanMelville to Emily Dickinson and William James -- who had wrestled with the problems of existence and the contingency of the world long before Sartre and his colleagues. After introducing this concept of an American existential tradition, Cotkin examines how formal existentialism first arrived in America in the 1930s through discussion of Kierkegaard and the early vogue among New York intellectuals for the works of Sartre, Beauvoir, and Camus. Cotkin then traces the evolution of existentialism in America: its adoption by Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison to help articulate the African-American experience its expression in the works of Norman Mailer and photographer Robert Frank its incorporation into the tenets of the feminist and radical student movements of the 1960s and its lingering presence in contemporary American thought and popular culture, particularly in such films as Crimes and Misdemeanors , Fight Club and American Beauty . The only full-length study of existentialism in America, this highly engaging and original work provides an invaluable guide to the history of American culture since the end of the Second World War. (shrink)
The work ethic has been deeply challenged by two trends – the division of labor and the destruction of continuity in employment. Here a narrative model is proposed for reconstructing the work ethic. Narratives embody assumptions about the flow of time, and work becomes charged with meaning when "contractual time" is interrupted, when new functions are invented to cope with obstacles having to do human character and action. Content for this abstract model is provided by four historical movements in the (...) U.S. having to do with the reorganization of work or work relations: scientific management, the human-relations movement, the human-potential movement, and early management thought. (shrink)