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Antebellum at SeaMaritime Fantasies in Nineteenth-Century America$
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Jason Berger

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780816677061

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816677061.001.0001

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The Sublime Abject of Democracy: Melville’s “Floating Imperium”

The Sublime Abject of Democracy: Melville’s “Floating Imperium”

(p.197) Chapter 6 The Sublime Abject of Democracy: Melville’s “Floating Imperium”
Antebellum at Sea

Jason Berger

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter examines Herman Melville’s White-Jacket’s, a novel that describes the loss of democratic rights within the Neversink’s martial structure and reveals the bizarre and repugnant excesses that sustain new manifestations of normative law. The novel exposes a traumatic ontological shift toward what can be seen as a totalitarian realm. The chapter discusses how Melville dramatizes a precarious consolidation of power that prefigures modern America’s move toward a veritable state of exception within the context of antebellum debates about flogging.

Keywords:   Herman Melville, White-Jacket, normative law, totalitarian realm, flogging, Democracy

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