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The War on WordsSlavery, Race, and Free Speech in American Literature$
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Michael T. Gilmore

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780226294131

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226294155.001.0001

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Intertext: “Bartleby, the Scrivener”

Intertext: “Bartleby, the Scrivener”

(p.192) Intertext: “Bartleby, the Scrivener”
The War on Words

Michael T. Gilmore

University of Chicago Press

Melville's short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” prefaces the consideration of post-Reconstruction literature. Bartleby, the Scrivener in the story forms a bridge between eras. It is an intertext connecting a minority viewpoint among antebellum writers, most of whom openly sided with antislavery, and the dominant condition of postwar authorship. Bartleby's echolalia, which infects his coworkers, also anticipates the hero's stutter in Billy Budd, Melville's own text that makes peace with the post-Reconstruction settlement. As an exercise in auto-censorship, the scrivener's mantra can be read as a displaced doctrine of aesthetic capitulation or accommodation.

Keywords:   Herman Melville, Bartleby, the Scrivener, post-Reconstruction literature, intertext, antebellum writer

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