Benny the History Pin Map

Map of publication locations of Benito Cereno

I am in the maps group with Anthony, Kat, Lauren, Lisa, and Raven, but it’s possible that my project relates more closely to the reception history group. I became interested in Benito Cereno book covers (rather than focusing on some element of the second installment of BC, as originally published in Putnam’s Monthly, which is what I had planned to do) and decided to try mapping them using History Pin, which I learned about from my library’s Digital Scholarship Librarian, Madiha Zahra Choksi.

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some helpful context for reading BENITO CERENO

In light of our discussion of Melville last night, I wanted to provide a bit of context for those interested in Melville’s politics and the way his work (especially Benito Cereno) has been read in cultural political terms in recent years. I recognize that it’s a heavy lift to read this text for the first (or the third) time, especially in a course that has an interdisciplinary DH focus rather than the kind of robust historical/cultural infrastructure of a course on Melville or on nineteen-century US literature, for example. So no obligation to plow through this stuff, but I wanted to provide a fuller sense of how this text has been situated and read, for those who are interested.

Here’s Toni Morrison’s pathbreaking 1988 lecture on Melville and whiteness. It’s worth a read in its entirety, as is the book that grew out of it, Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, one of a small handful of books that gave birth to “whiteness studies” in the early 1990s. I won’t summarize it, but she wrestles, strenuously and critically, with Melville’s work (here, Moby Dick ) as an attempt to deconstruct the whiteness that subtends the imperialist and racist and patriarchal structures that dominated Melville’s time (and have never left the stage, and, in unsettling ways, have come roaring back to the forefront in recent years).

And here’s a pithy post from Carolyn Karcher, an editor of the Melville section of the invaluable Heath Anthology of American Literature, which is responsible for greatly diversifying the range of what constitutes “US Literature” in college classrooms in the past 30 years. Karcher is speaking to faculty, as they think about planning courses, but the post gives us a clear window onto how scholars have linked Benito to a wide range of texts giving narrative form to the traumas experienced, individually and collectively, by enslaved Africans in the period.

Finally, for those interested in my investment in the text (and the embarrassing/humorous story of how I first encountered it), here’s the epilogue to my book on Depression-era documentary work in the US, in which Benito guest-stars.

See you next week.


nice collection of materials on Amasa Delano

Here’s a patchy site that has collected a great little trove of useful materials on Delano for our annotation project.

For a more robust search, check out America’s Historical Newspapers, a searchable collection of newspapers from Delano’s era accessible via Hunter’s library. Here’s a look at what I quickly slurped up in 5 mins of searching; I’m sure you can find more:

  1. Vermont Centinel
    Publication Date: September 2, 1807
    Published As: Vermont Centinel, Burlington, Vermont
    Headline: From a Boston Paper. Tribute of Respect
    Article Type: Letters
  2. Republican Watch-Tower
    Publication Date: September 1, 1807
    Published As: Republican Watch-Tower., New York, New York
    Headline: [Capt. Amasa Delano; Perseverance; Boston; King; Spain; Gold Medal; Majesty’s; Spanish]
    Article Type: News/Opinion
  3. Mercantile Advertiser
    Publication Date: August 27, 1807
    Published As: Mercantile Advertiser, New York, New York
    Headline: [Captain Amasa Delano; Perseverance; Boston; King; Spain; Oold Medal; Majesty’s; Pacific]
    Article Type: News/Opinion
  4. Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser
    Publication Date: August 25, 1807
    Published As: Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Headline: To Which Letter, Capt. Daland, through the Morning of Mr. Council Stoughton, Turned the following Answer Boston, Aug. 8, 1807
    Article Type: News/Opinion
  5. Portsmouth Oracle
    Publication Date: August 22, 1807
    Published As: Portsmouth Oracle, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
    Headline: Boston, August 8, 1807
    Article Type: News/Opinion
  6. Public Advertiser
    Publication Date: August 22, 1807
    Published As: The Public Advertiser, New York, New York
    Headline: Boston August 3, 1807
    Article Type: Letters
  7. Public Advertiser
    Publication Date: August 22, 1807
    Published As: The Public Advertiser, New York, New York
    Headline: Tribute of Respect
    Article Type: Letters
  8. Salem Gazette
    Publication Date: August 21, 1807
    Published As: SALEM GAZETTE., Salem, Massachusetts
    Headline: [Commodore Preble; Capt. Amasa Delano; Perserver; Boston; King; Spain; Gold; Medal]
    Article Type: News/Opinion
  9. Newburyport Herald
    Publication Date: August 21, 1807
    Published As: NEWBURYPORT HERALD., Newburyport, Massachusetts
    Headline: [Capt. Amasa Delano; Perseverance; Boston; South America]
    Article Type: News/Opinion
  10. Spooner’s Vermont Journal
    Publication Date: December 22, 1806
    Published As: Spooner’s Vermont Journal., Windsor, Vermont
    Article Type: Advertisement

group project #2: annotated edition for Benito Cereno

We voted today and decided to do an annotated version of Benito Cereno together on the theme of relevant intertexts, especially the narrative of the real Amasa Delano. Here are the ground rules:

  1. We will use to annotate our text.
  2. We will use the dead simple “edition” that I’ve posted on our site using the plain text version from Project Gutenberg.
  3. Each student is responsible for minimum three annotations taken from some text that’s relevant to Melville’s text. Easiest, of course, is comparing aspects of Delano’s text, which you can find in searchable form here or in your Norton, where it’s reprinted. You could also search for other relevant historical texts on (for example) slave revolts or the activities of sealers or ideas about Senegal and enslaved Africans returning there or whatever you can think of. I’ll post relevant intertexts as I think of them and locate them. Hathi Trust is an amazing trove of old texts that are searchable, so you might poke around there.
  4. Evaluation: I’m most concerned that each of you clear the bar of (only) three annotations, which will get you a good solid B. More notes will be rewarded, as will especially lucid notes, and notes from surprising sources. Evaluation will not be as stringent as with the first project, since this is a quicker/dirtier project by its nature.

Sound good? Have fun and see you Tuesday. The annotations are due a week from today, Friday March 18th.

Two pieces on the politics of BENITO CERENO

You might be interested to read two recent reflections on the relevance of Benito Cereno to the present political moment. The author, Greg Grandlin, focuses on the the rise of extremist right-wing politics via the Tea Party (and now, of course, Trumpism) and the utter dehumanizing and delegitimizing of President Obama in one piece and, in the other, aligns the sunny liberalism of Amasa Delano with a strand of American imperialism no less troubling than that of the much better-known Ahab.