On some motifs in Herman Melville
Nutters, Daniel Rosenberg
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In “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire” and The Arcades Project , Walter Benjamin recognizes Baudelaire for his allegorical genius and his cognizance of the cultural, historical, and societal changes taking shape in Paris. However, writing at the same time as Baudelaire, Herman Melville’s novels also reflect the multitude of change occurring in nineteenth-century America. Using several of Benjamin’s theoretical concepts: the flâneur, the collector, the allegorist, and the notion of aura, this study examines the ways in which three of Melville’s most canonical stories – Moby-Dick, Pierre , and “Bartleby” – interrogate, reflect, and respond to a burgeoning American modernity.