Dana, Melville and Justice Story: Writing the Seaman's Tale in Nineteenth-Century Law and Literature (Hardback)Kathryn Mudgett (author)
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Valued as a skilled worker who moved the wealth of the nation in commercial vessels or protected its ships and waters in military ones, the nineteenth-century American seaman was also utterly dehumanised: forced by law to relinquish control of his body when at sea and to give his captain the power to subdue him with a lash.
Yet the seaman, unlike the slave, could resort to the courts for redress. There he might speak and be heard. And there he has left a record of his struggle for dignity as an American.
Kathryn Mudgett analyses that record through the decisions of judges such as Joseph Story, and the legal and literary writings of advocates such as Richard Henry Dana, Jr., as well as the richly imaginative works of professional writers such as Herman Melville.
Story's narrative strategy was reductive, taking accounts of the individual seaman seeking justice and locating them within accepted societal norms and behaviour already established by statute or precedent. Dana, as a lawyer and a literary writer and a former merchant seaman, was an intermediary between the authoritative discourse of the law and the literary narrative of fact. As another mariner-turned-writer, Melville also used literary narrative to tell the seaman's tale, but the more expansive form of the novel gave him the opportunity to yoke together such disparate rhetorical genres as journalism, philosophy, and even the legal discourse of the advocate's brief.
Mudgett's work offers fascinating insights into a nation confronting, in both its literature and its records of law, the fundamental political question of that time-and perhaps of our time as well: Can the United States create a just and moral society, one fully reflective of the Constitution's great aims?
Publisher: AMS Press
Number of pages: 275
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
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