Friday, December 9, 2pm, Prof. Jennifer GREIMAN, Wake Forest University, “Unplanted to the last: Melville’s Democracy and the Poetics of Grass”

In a famous 1851 letter to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville describes his “ruthless democracy” as a principle of radical egalitarianism joined to a process of transience and transformation, which he figures through the cycle of grasses growing, going to seed, rooting, and growing again. From Pierre and Israel Potter in the 1850s to Clarel in the 1870s and Weeds and Wildings published a year before his 1891 death, Melville’s grasses become a key register of both the macro-politics and micro-politics of democracy across his work – a means of connecting the histories of war and settlement that transform the landscapes of upstate New York and western Massachusetts to the minutest forces of vegetable creativity and change. This talk will trace Melville’s grassy figures alongside the more famous poetic grasses of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass to tease out the difference of Melville’s conception of democracy. While both Melville and Whitman develop experimental aesthetics from the adhesive powers of democratic sociality and the figurative bounty of grass, Whitman’s poetics and prose after the Civil War is explicitly committed to the question of how poetry might plant an enduring democratic union. Melville, by contrast, holds to the radical premise that democracy is unplantable – that is, it must be understood as groundless (in Jacques Rancière’s formulation), in part, because its most militant potential derives from a combination of human and non-human creativities (in William Connolly’s). 

Michael Jonik is Reader in English and American Literature at the University of Sussex. He will be her respondent.

Jennifer Greiman is Associate Professor of English at Wake Forest University and the associate editor of Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies. She is the author of Melville’s Democracy: Radical Figuration and Political Form (forthcoming from Stanford University Press) and Democracy’s Spectacle: Sovereignty and Public Life in Antebellum American Writing (Fordham University Press, 2010) and the co-editor, with Paul Stasi, of The Last Western: Deadwood and the End of American Empire (Bloomsbury Academic, 2013). Her articles have appeared in The New Cambridge Companion to Herman MelvilleThe New Melville StudiesTimelines of American LiteratureJ19: The Journal of Nineteenth-century Americanists, LeviathanREAL, and Textual Practice. Recently, in June 2022, Jennifer Greiman was keynote at the Melville’s Energies conference in Paris.

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abigail lang (2022, 30 novembre). Friday, December 9, 2pm, Prof. Jennifer GREIMAN, Wake Forest University, “Unplanted to the last: Melville’s Democracy and the Poetics of Grass” A19. Consulté le 19 mai 2024, à l’adresse

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