Miscegenetic Melville: Race and Reconstruction in Clarel

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2013-12-23 18:30Z by Steven

Miscegenetic Melville: Race and Reconstruction in Clarel

Zach Hutchins, Assistant Professor of English
Colorado State University

Volume 80, Number 4, Winter 2013
pages 1173-1203
DOI: 10.1353/elh.2013.0039

This essay investigates Herman Melville’s views on Reconstruction and racism in Clarel, the national epic published in the centennial year of 1876. In Clarel, Melville points toward miscegenation as the solution to problems of ethnic conflict festering since the Civil War, the key to rebuilding a nation torn apart by the economic exploitation and lingering racism of Reconstruction. Miscegenation is an ideal Melville pointed to somewhat naïvely in his earlier prose, but Clarel is Melville’s most sustained narrative commentary on race published after Benito Cereno and reflects a more sober assessment of racial realities and possibilities in the United States.

Tags: , , ,