American "Idealogue": Freemasonry, Brotherhood, and the Democratic Imaginary in Herman Melville.

Michael Brunckhorst (2011). American "Idealogue": Freemasonry, Brotherhood, and the Democratic Imaginary in Herman Melville. PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

       
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Author Michael Brunckhorst
Thesis Title American "Idealogue": Freemasonry, Brotherhood, and the Democratic Imaginary in Herman Melville.
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2011-07
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Hilary Emmett
Prof Peter Holbrook
Total pages 206
Total colour pages 1
Total black and white pages 205
Subjects 19 Studies in Creative Arts and Writing
Abstract/Summary This dissertation examines four important early works by Herman Melville with the aim of discovering, in part, the substance and meaning of the author‘s engagement with the symbols and philosophies of Freemasonry. The goals and beliefs of the Fraternity — liberty, tolerance, equality and universal brotherhood — were also distinguishing features of both Enlightenment thought and the virtues that drove the American Revolution. In consequence Freemasonry became a major cultural force in America from the early years of the Republic to the late nineteenth century; its ideological ties to the nation were celebrated publicly, and often. With this in mind, I have examined how Melville‘s fictional treatment of nineteenth-century political and cultural ideologies was informed by a number of factors: the relationships between Melville, his family and their position in American history; and his deployment of Masonic iconography in a literary exploration of the antebellum period. My analysis of Typee, Mardi, White-Jacket, and Moby-Dick, is also concerned with the value of his fiction as a dialogue between the author and the culture from which it arose. Like most literary works of the period, Melville‘s novels mediate between the author‘s own personality and public sociality. In the context of this mediation and what I argue is the advocatory nature of his texts, I suggest that — more than any of the nation‘s literary figures since James Fenimore Cooper — Herman Melville not only wrote about America, but to America. Melville‘s literary pursuit of the democratic ideal, and his complementary articulation of the notion of brotherhood, may be read as effectively scrutinizing the many polarities in nineteenth-century American society: matter and spirit, private and public, secrecy and revelation, individual and nation. I argue that by privileging the simple republican paradigm over the complex realities of his own time, Melville may be seen as an impractical idealist — an "idealogue" — whose work encourages a re-thinking of antebellum society‘s basic political and social tenets. Indeed, I suggest that his dream of national regeneration — essentially a call for the restoration of Jeffersonian political values — was a richly conceived but necessarily ― "imaginary" democracy.
Keyword melville, american fiction, brotherhood, freemasonry, democracy.
Additional Notes Colour page 197

 
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