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From a Commercial Writer to a Romantic Genius: Transformation of Authorship in Melville

Publication Date
  • 멜빌
  • 상업성작가
  • 낭만적 천재
  • Communication
  • Literature


David Leverenz argues that in early nineteenth-century America the male author's cultural status was in transition from elite patrician to professional producer for a marketplace increasingly dominated by middle-class women readers. Melville's career traces a comp~ regressive movement against the grain of this change. He began his writing career as a professional writer of popular, sensational sea adventure fiction with Typee (1846) and Omoo (1847): as William Charvat argues, "Melville, when he entered the literary life. thought of himself not as an artist but as the kind of practical writer who can be cs11ed .•• a journalist. That is, his intention was to communicate. in familiar language and literary forms, materials which readers could absorb and understand without antecedent knowledge and without any great concentration or effort." By 1850, Melville was restive with literary commerce. disenchanted with superficial readers. and ambitious to become the equivalent of an American Shakespeare. In order to document this change in Melville's attitude toward authorship and audience, this chapter selectively describes Melville's early literary career up to the point of his composition of "Hawthorne and His Mosses" (1850), with an emphasis on his family situation, the sales records of his first seven books, and his correspondence with publishers. By examining the changing authorship in Melville's writing during the period between Typee and "Hawthorne and His Mosses," I want to provide a help to understand Melville's masculine-oriented, increasingly "patrician," and elite authorship which becomes revealed in his writing in 1850s, including "Hawthorne and His Mosses," Moby-Dick. Pierre, and his short stories published in the two leading contemporary literary magazines, Harper's Monthly Magazine and Putnam's Monthly Magazine. In these major works Melville views his ideal male writer as a romantic genius who wages a war in the literary marketplace against commercial publishers and superficial readers.

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