Pub. Date:
The University of North Carolina Press
The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives / Edition 1

The View from the Masthead: Maritime Imagination and Antebellum American Sea Narratives / Edition 1

by Hester Blum
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With long, solitary periods at sea, far from literary and cultural centers, sailors comprise a remarkable population of readers and writers. Although their contributions have been little recognized in literary history, seamen were important figures in the nineteenth-century American literary sphere. In the first book to explore their unique contribution to literary culture, Hester Blum examines the first-person narratives of working sailors, from little-known sea tales to more famous works by Herman Melville, James Fenimore Cooper, Edgar Allan Poe, and Richard Henry Dana.

In their narratives, sailors wrote about how their working lives coexisted with—indeed, mutually drove—their imaginative lives. Even at leisure, they were always on the job site. Blum analyzes seamen's libraries, Barbary captivity narratives, naval memoirs, writings about the Galapagos Islands, Melville's sea vision, and the crisis of death and burial at sea. She argues that the extent of sailors' literacy and the range of their reading were unusual for a laboring class, belying the popular image of Jack Tar as merely a swaggering, profane, or marginal figure. As Blum demonstrates, seamen's narratives propose a method for aligning labor and contemplation that has broader applications for the study of American literature and history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807858554
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 02/25/2008
Edition description: 1
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Hester Blum is assistant professor of English at Pennsylvania State University.

Table of Contents


Part I. The Sea Narrative and Sailors' Literary Culture
Chapter 1. The Literati of the Galley
Chapter 2. Barbary Captivity and Intra-Atlantic Print Culture
Chapter 3. Naval Memoirs and the Literary Marketplace
Part II. Maritime Epistemology and Crisis
Chapter 4. The Sea Eye
Chapter 5. The Galapagos and the Evolution of the Maritime Imagination
Chapter 6. From Preface to Postscript: Death and Burial at Sea

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From the Publisher

Blum argues persuasively for seamen as both producers and consumers of literature, and she makes vivid the self-conscious ways in which they participated in a tradition of writing about shipboard life and about the nature of experience itself. She renews interest in the narratives of Nathaniel Ames, William Leggett, David Porter, and John Sherburne Sleeper and transforms our understanding of the maritime writings of Cooper, Poe, and Melville.—Samuel Otter, University of California, Berkeley

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