Much recent interest in Herman Melville's poetry involves reassessing its position both within the Melville canon and within or against various literary traditions. This essay considers the range of stances, speakers, and personae in John Marr and Other Sailors With Some Sea-Pieces (1888) and its resonances of past works as evidence that Melville is more committed to a public audience and less oppositional or adversarial to established traditions than a number of scholars have proposed. A study of topical and rhetorical interdependencies in a sequence of poems in the volume uncovers dynamic affinities, whether by direct influence or otherwise, with William Shakespeare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Alfred Tennyson, and Walt Whitman, participants in Melville's own recurring urge to tell of things that cannot be told. Through a communion of voices, “The Æolian Harp,” “To the Master of the ‘Meteor,’” and “Far Off-Shore” display varying and alternating expressions of this urge as part of a rhetorical project that invites readers to interact and ultimately acquiesce in essential limits of accessing and telling the truth.
Authors, Speakers, Readers in a Trio of Sea-Pieces in Herman Melville's John Marr and Other Sailors
Sean Ford, a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, is the author of “Nothing's Paradox in Donne's ‘Negative Love’ and ‘A Nocturnal Upon S. Lucy's Day,’” which appeared in the journal Quidditas in 2001. In progress is an essay dealing with John Marr and Other Sailors, William Wordsworth, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Søren Kierkegaard, called “Melville's Late Aversion of the Genetic Fallacy.”
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Sean Ford; Authors, Speakers, Readers in a Trio of Sea-Pieces in Herman Melville's John Marr and Other Sailors. Nineteenth-Century Literature 1 September 2012; 67 (2): 234–258. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ncl.2012.67.2.234
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