Passive Constitutions, Or, 7 1/2 Times Bartleby
This book represents an analysis of one of the most enigmatic characters in American literature. At the same time, it addresses various questions in Melville's writings, such as passivity, identity, the impersonal and neutral, sexuality and the question of marriage, drug addiction, and ethics (especially the problem of testifying and friendship). Reference is made to the whole range of Melville's writings (excluding his poetry), and each chapter situates the question it treats within a larger cultural or theoretical context, such as the legacy of American Puritanism, the appearance of the first American asylums, Melville's treatment of the institutionalization of madness, and the appearance of certain semi-sciences (mesmerism, physiognomy, palmistry, and so on). The book thus covers Melville's thinking concerning American society, his relationship to the law, his treatment of the arts (specifically Turner's paintings), and his responses to the appearance of meteorology, reading such matters as a political and philosophical statement concerning the modern world.
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