The “Universal Cannibalism” of Things: A Historical, Psychoanalytic Treatment of Melville’s Bartleby, Benito Cereno, The Encantadas, and Billy Budd
Webb, David Potter Townsend
This study will evaluate Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener, Benito Cereno, The Encantadas, and Billy Budd as evidence of Melville’s embrace of an historical view of the U.S. and will further analyze these novellas using a methodological framework that attempts to synthesize a historical lens and psychoanalytic perspectives. While the historical and psychoanalytical approaches may sometimes appear to resist reconciliation, they will generally complement each other. It is only through analysis that takes into account both the psychoanalytic and the historical that we can comprehend how intensive is Melville’s sense of a social degeneration that affected both the internal subjective demands on citizenship and the external evidence of history.