Universidad de Navarra
Herman Melville's between literary
sophistication and politics in
Started at the XV
then Spanish, Dutch,
1789 – Slave revolution in
San Domingo (Haiti).
By 1860, 4.000.000 slaves
were in the US, a third of
Legal in the US until
1865 (XIII Amendment)
and in Mississippi until…
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,
except as a punishment for crime whereof the party
shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the
United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this
article by appropriate legislation.
Born in NY in 1819.
At the age of 22 he set sails
on a whaler for the South
3 years later he got back
and moved to NY where he
started writing (based on
A form of a “rarest literary
“In fact, like most men of a good, blithe heart, Captain Delano
took to Negroes, not philanthropically, but genially, just as other
men to Newfoundland dogs.”
“All this, with what preceded, and what followed, occurred with
such involutions of rapidity, that past, present, and future
“Forget it. See, yon bright sun has forgotten it all, and the blue
sea, and the blue sky; these have turned over new leaves."
"Because they have no memory," he dejectedly replied; "because
they are not human.“ […]
"You are saved, Don Benito," cried Captain Delano, more and
more astonished and pained; "you are saved; what has cast such a
shadow upon you?"
“Benito Cereno, borne on the bier, did, indeed, follow his
Race –controversial issue in Melville’s writing.
Slavery - Slavery under attack or a just reality under American XIX
Friendship by compliance or by fear?
The interaction of the three worlds - Americans, Europeans and
Africans interaction – Africans as slaves, Europeans as slave trade and
Americans as a good helping by stander that
The end conversation - “In The Cultural Politics of Emotion, I explore
how emotions work to shape the 'surfaces' of individual and collective
The Death of Don Alexandro Aranda – a “symbolic display of the
skeleton of a modern slaveholder in place of the image of Columbus”.
The Hegelian Master and Slave
different perspectives of interrelations. - Delano/Cereno/Babo each one
in his context.
Analyze what is seen to the naked eye. Looking for the reason for the
Question of authority - According to Hegel, in order
for the white (master) to be able to say I´m white, it
has to be black. There is constant movement on the
deck of white and black. This movement creates a
game of perception, at times as rivals (the black boy
hitting the Spanish, white boy coming up to the deck
etc.) and other times all mixed together (working on
Universal consciousness, every
man that thinks contribute
Relates as well to
the scarlet letter in
which Gramsci said
that it is all
between the basic
classes to the upper
country is not
the status but
the nation. We
hegemony to be
Alejandro Aranda´s skeleton – implicit imagery of
Colors – Black, White and Gray
Skin, Blood, Bones
“please, master, while I wipe this ugly stuff off the
razor, and strop it again.”
Clothes – Delano judges the situation on the deck by
the clothes they wear.
Grayness – The dominant color sense the beginning of the
story. Not only in the imagery but in the intrinsic
Dehumanization – reciprocal brutality in order to keep
them from aspiring to natural freedom.
The shaving scene – “The trope of the barbershop
Emotion, the narrative of fear – “emotions can be viewed
as a practical engagement with the world. Conceiving of
emotions as practices means understanding them as
emerging from bodily dispositions conditioned by a
social context, which always has cultural and historical
specificity.” (Scheer 2012: 193).
There is a great difference, whether the poet seeks the particular
for the sake of the general or sees the general in the
particular. From the former procedure there ensues allegory, in
which the particular serves only as illustration, as example of
the general. The latter procedure, however, is genuinely the nature
of poetry; it expresses something particular, without thinking of
the general or pointing to it.
Allegory transforms the phenomenon into a concept, the
concept into an image, but in such a way that the concept
always remains bounded in the image, and is entirely to be kept
and held in it, and to be expressed by it.
Symbolism . . . transforms the phenomenon into idea, the idea
into an image, and in such a way that the idea remains
always infinitely active and unapproachable in the image,
and even if expressed in all languages, still would remain
--Goethe, Maxims and Reflections
Write about one of the following:
- Do you know any other Barber scene in art. Compare
the two using Yadon’s article.
- Imagine a different ending. What would you have liked
it to be?
- Who is the villain? Analyze the characters in the story.
- Is the revolt justified? Explain. What would you have
done as one of the sailors, join the rebellion, oppose it,
risk your life to save others etc.
- What is the relation between the literary esthetic and
politics in Benito Cereno?
Did then the bold Slave rear at last the Sword
Of Vengeance? drench'd he deep its thirsty blade
In the cold bosom of his tyrant lord?
Oh! who shall blame him? thro' the midnight shade
Still o'er his tortur'd memory rush'd the thought
Of every past delight; his native grove,
Friendship's best joys, and Liberty and Love,
All lost for ever! then Remembrance wrought
His soul to madness; round his restless bed
Freedom's pale spectre stalk'd, with a stern smile
Pointing the wounds of slavery, the while
She shook her chains and hung her sullen head:
No more on Heaven he calls with fruitless breath,
But sweetens with revenge, the draught of death.
Colonialism and its aftermath. Daniel
Defoe's Robinson Crusoe
- Todorov, Tzvetan, La conquista de América, el
problema del otro (pages 195-212)