American palimpsests: Trans/national imagination in Herman Melville's poetry
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American Palimpsests: Trans/national Imagination in Herman Melville's Poetry engages the manifestation of Melville's often transnational imagination in an attempt to situate his poetic work in the social, political, and cultural context from which it originated. Melville disrupts both the temporal and spatial sequence of national history by putting different national and extra-national incidents into dialogue, calling attention to the complex ruptures within the national frame. His comparativist approach anticipates the recent global turn in national studies in which both the territorial and temporal borders of national history can be reconsidered from a "planetary" perspective, to use Gayatri Spivak's term. Melville's poetry, from Battle-Pieces to his posthumously published Weeds and Wildings, foregrounds the fact that all events in the US took place through the interaction with other events occurring in different time zones. Even when the US settings or nationalist concerns are not presented at the fore, "America" always lurks beneath the layered descriptions of foreign events. Whether it is a personal traumatic experience of the Civil War repressed beneath consciousness or the sweep of ancient Oriental philosophies embedded in American culture, Melville recovers the erased cultural texts and reconstructs them as part of the American national experience. His palimpsest-like poetic writings subvert the concept of America as an insular and sovereign country and instead demonstrate that geographical and chronological borders are always being crossed and re-crossed. In that sense, the American nation is a central concern of his poetry. The aim of this dissertation is to recognize how Melville's transnational imagination operated across different times and locations, and how he imagined American poetry that simultaneously constructs and deconstructs images of America.