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Sea narratives as minor literature: reading Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad with Deleuze and Guattari


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Kado, Martina. (2017). Sea narratives as minor literature: reading Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad with Deleuze and Guattari. PhD Thesis. Filozofski fakultet u Zagrebu, Department of Comparative Literature.
(Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture) [mentor Jukić Gregurić, Tatjana].

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Sea Narratives as Minor Literature is a comparative study of Herman Melville’s and Joseph Conrad’s sea-themed writing, using the wider critical-theoretical framework of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, centered around the concept of minor literature. Underutilized in maritime literary studies, this platform is highly suitable for studying the paradigm of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Anglo-American sea narratives, including Melville and Conrad: first, the collective and political facets of minor literature provide an apparatus for reading the dominant elements in this genre – the experience of sea labor and the world of the ship. Second, the element of deterritorialization of language in minor literature highlights the technical language of seamanship (sea argot) in literature as an element of linguistic deterritorialization by default. Finally, with its focus on detecting subversive practices within majoritarian configurations, it enables the tracing of both emancipatory and power-complicit strategies in sea-themed literary works. The Deleuze-Guattari framework brings together Melville and Conrad not only as sea authors, but as occupying an eccentric position regarding the English language itself. I chart diachronic overlaps and departures in terms of how they articulate maritime subjectification with various forms of territory, mainly the space of the ship and the space of the sea, but also capitalism and nation. As a result, some existing Deleuze-Guattari readings of Melville as a minoritarian author are revised, while avenues of minoritarian thought are detected in Conrad. Tailoring the Deleuze–Guattari terminology, I introduce the concept of the ship-assemblage, articulated as a machinic assemblage and assemblage of enunciation, as a new tool for examining literary shipboard geographies in Melville, Conrad, and beyond. Examining both authors’ employment of sea argot against the concept of minor literature, I identify it as a sub-linguistic system which grafts itself onto literary discourse, able to function in a range of positions from majoritarian to minoritarian. Finally, sea literature in general, and sea narratives of this period in particular, evince resistance to categorization in terms of literary periods, genres and national literary history, fact and fiction, and the analytical apparatus of narratology. I therefore propose a new understanding of the specific textuality and narrativity of sea-themed prose as subscribing to what we commonly recognize as literature, but also transcending it. My research lies at the intersection of literary studies, critical theory, transatlantic studies, and cultural and material history of maritime practices.

Item Type: PhD Thesis
Uncontrolled Keywords: Herman Melville, Joseph Conrad, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, minor literature, sea literature, sea narratives, American literature, English literature
Subjects: English language and literature
Comparative literature
Departments: Department of Comparative Literature
Supervisor: Jukić Gregurić, Tatjana
Additional Information: Poslijediplomski doktorski studij književnosti, izvedbenih umjetnosti, filma i kulture
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2017 07:34
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2017 07:34

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