The article addresses a controversial issue in the ideological/social "reading" of Herman Melville's literary works: the writer's use of political biography, with the aim at overturning the dominant ideological pattern of national leaders as the true interpreters of the civil virtues of the American social/utopian experiment. The focus (as exemplified in many "new historicism" oriented critical studies) is on the figure of Israel Potter (the main character in Melville's novel of revolutionary and independence war) and on the symbolic value of the national "common" hero. Potter's life is played within the framework of the America vs. Europe opposition, a sort of anticipation of Henry James' "international theme". With the Jamesian hero/heroine he shares some basic essential features: they face the "horrors" of the Old World, being strong and weak at the same time because of their "innocence". Israel's exile is not the result of personal choice and his Yankee "shrewdness" and American pride often trouble him. Through his tragic personal fate, Melville deconstructs the rhetoric of America as a "rising nation", while celebrating the many Israel Potters who fought in the Revolutionary war and were finally displaced by the triumph of the conventional mythicizing legend of the "founding fathers". Israel's being trapped between irreconcilable options makes him a "prototype expatriate", a figure of the recurrent contradictions which accompany America's struggle between utopia and reality, Old and New World values, nature and civilization.

Herman Melville's Trans-Atlantic Negotiations: Israel Potter as an Expatriate Prototype

LOMBARDO, Giuseppe Domenico
2006-01-01

Abstract

The article addresses a controversial issue in the ideological/social "reading" of Herman Melville's literary works: the writer's use of political biography, with the aim at overturning the dominant ideological pattern of national leaders as the true interpreters of the civil virtues of the American social/utopian experiment. The focus (as exemplified in many "new historicism" oriented critical studies) is on the figure of Israel Potter (the main character in Melville's novel of revolutionary and independence war) and on the symbolic value of the national "common" hero. Potter's life is played within the framework of the America vs. Europe opposition, a sort of anticipation of Henry James' "international theme". With the Jamesian hero/heroine he shares some basic essential features: they face the "horrors" of the Old World, being strong and weak at the same time because of their "innocence". Israel's exile is not the result of personal choice and his Yankee "shrewdness" and American pride often trouble him. Through his tragic personal fate, Melville deconstructs the rhetoric of America as a "rising nation", while celebrating the many Israel Potters who fought in the Revolutionary war and were finally displaced by the triumph of the conventional mythicizing legend of the "founding fathers". Israel's being trapped between irreconcilable options makes him a "prototype expatriate", a figure of the recurrent contradictions which accompany America's struggle between utopia and reality, Old and New World values, nature and civilization.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11570/1680109
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