Chapter

The Petrified City <i>Antiquity and Modernity in Melville's New York, 1835–1865</i>

in Untimely Ruins

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780226946634
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226946658 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226946658.003.0004
The Petrified City Antiquity and Modernity in Melville's New York, 1835–1865

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Herman Melville's eponymous 1853 short story Bartleby the Scrivener, set in the rising metropolis of New York, includes brief allusions to the ruined cities of the Mediterranean. In the middle years of the nineteenth century, New York City emerged as an industrialized, class-stratified metropolis. “Bartleby,” with its subtitle, “A Story of Wall Street,” makes specific references to neighboring streets (Broadway, Canal Street), institutions (churches, courts, prisons), and landlords (Astor). It offers indirect glimpses of a city undergoing urban restructuring, a process that generated ruins and visions of ruin. This article explores the radical transformations of urban space within antebellum Manhattan, as it became segmented along the lines of class, ethnicity, and land use. It looks at the city's new regime of landlordism and tenancy, along with its exposure to a wave of construction and demolition. All these processes combined to create the problem of homelessness seen today.

Keywords: Herman Melville; Bartleby the Scrivener; New York City; Manhattan; urban restructuring; land use; ethnicity; construction; demolition

Chapter.  15752 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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