By Thomas McGlamery
This ebook analyses the paintings of Herman Melville, John Dos Passos and Zora Neale Hurston along biographical fabrics and discourses at the physique.
Read or Download Protest and the Body in Melville, Dos Passos, and Hurston (Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory) PDF
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Protest and the Body in Melville, Dos Passos, and Hurston (Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory)
This e-book analyses the paintings of Herman Melville, John Dos Passos and Zora Neale Hurston along biographical fabrics and discourses at the physique.
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Extra info for Protest and the Body in Melville, Dos Passos, and Hurston (Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory)
Though Melville’s narration invites physiognomical readings, it also suggests the limitations of that practice, if not its outright uselessness as a window into character when it matters most. The “natural” language of the body may be hopelessly admixed with culture, as would be the perceptions of readers of that language. qxp 8/6/2004 3:48 PM Reading a Man Like a Book Page 35 35 Certainly, though, the myriad efforts to describe the appearance of the tale’s villain would appear at first glance to support the reliability of body policing discourses.
The body in motion lies. The flesh does not. (Or is it the other way around? This quandary, it just so happens, plays a large role in many physiognomical discussions during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Lavater, for instance, held closely to the view that only the features at rest or in repose told the truth about a person. He favored readings of the resting, the sleeping, and the dead; and he regarded the forehead as the most reliable indicator of character. One discerns a kind of crypto-phrenology in his texts.
Here the black sailor and his cohorts provide only a gratifying frisson of mingled fear and expectancy. They are invited to marvel at the sailor like the rest of those on the wharf and forge a certain identity with those in the group surrounding the black sailor “like a bodyguard,” if not with the sailor himself (1353). This identification is politically charged. Billy Budd begins with a representation of a vanishing, informally democratic sailor sub-culture that was paradoxically ordered as an aristocracy/meritocracy of the body.