Psychotherapist, Writer, teacher

"doubled narratives of orphanhood in melville's Pierre"

Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies

Volume 18, Number 1, March 2016

Johns Hopkins University Press
ISSN: 1525-6995


Abstract:  “Henceforth, cast-out Pierre hath no paternity, and no past”—so declares Melville’s Pierre in Pierre; or, the Ambiguities as he elects orphanhood, choosing to occupy a narrative of liberation invested with the kinship metaphors and sacred overtones of a revolutionary heritage. Both parricide and orphaned victim, agent and object, Pierre reveals the complex affective terrain of an autogenic authority. His choice is put into relief as the other characters also explore or break from all former ties of kinship. Melville sets the trope of elective orphanhood against the female sentimental orphan, a common protagonist of sentimental novels, whose authority is located in her ability to discipline herself into an intimate possession. This essay argues that Melville pushes these doubled tropes of orphanhood to excess in order to critique their currency as narratives of liberation.

Karen Weiser