Jenna’s Bartleby Story

The process of making the computer voiced Bartleby was frustrating, and perhaps rewarding for overcoming the frustration. Within our group we had differing interpretations of the text and therefore had to work to come up with a concept that satisfied us all. It seemed that we were all down with the using computer voices for the characters other than Bartleby as a metaphor for the machine of capitalism. However, some group members had more sympathy for the narrator than others. Through our meeting before class last week I felt that we were at an artistic impasse. While that was no fun, once we’d arrived at a solution, I felt a real thrill at having worked through issues.

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Bartleby, new and oldish

You might enjoy an early 2000s Bartleby hypertext edition that I’ve rediscovered via the Internet Archive’s invaluable Wayback Machine. It starts with Bartleby’s blank wall and goes from there: cute, no?

Pretty cool version of Bartleby edited by a Slate writer, Andrew Kahn, last year. It’s richly illustrated and contains a wide range of notes that provide historical context and a sense of some of the diversity of critical opinions on the text over the years since its publication. And there’s even an audiobook version on the site for good measure.

As such, it also points towards our second collaborative project together, in which we’ll be doing something similar (though with much lower production values!) with Benito Cereno, so as you check it out, think about what Kahn did to make this work. Or not.

Finally, although it sometimes seems like ancient history, Bartleby played a starring role in the Occupy Wall Street movement in and around Zuccotti Park in 2012. I’ve collated a few pieces from that time that capture the flavor of the way Bartleby haunted that space and that time:

  • Jonathan Greenberg riffs on the use of “occupy” and cognate concepts like self-possession, property, and vocation in Melville’s text, in Zuccotti, and on campuses.
  • Lauren Klein thinks about the politics of language in both Melville’s text and the movement.
  • Jac Asher examines the way Bartleby dismantles the logic of homosociality that underpins Wall Street from within.

Bartleby the Liberated Audiobook

Call me lazy, efficient, or a sneak: I doubled-dipped on this week’s homework and listened to Bartleby the Scrivener, read by Bob Tassinari. Part-time grad students who are full-time workers, amirite? Bartleby was my first Melville and my first audiobook. I’m not the best aural learner, and I rarely read books older than me or authored by men and even more rarely books by white men. We all gotta fight the patriarchy and systemic oppression in whatever ways work for us, right?

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Melville lives!

Since we’ll start discussing Melville’s work next week, I thought I’d mention two Melvillian manifestations in culture today. First, the excellent publisher Melville House, a scrappy outfit that publishes an amazing list and has had the courage to tell Amazon to go %$#^ itself. If that wasn’t enough, well looky here:


Some of you will get this on the way home, as it were, but trust me: it’s pretty funny.

Second, enterprising academics have created a (decidedly adult) game out of the text of Moby Dick. Especially interesting looking forward to our “playing” Billy Budd via the Ivanhoe WordPress theme in a couple of months.