Intertext: “Bartleby, the Scrivener”

Michael T. Gilmore

in The War on Words

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780226294131
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226294155 | DOI:
Intertext: “Bartleby, the Scrivener”

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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

Chapter.  1694 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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