Political tyranny and the master -slave paradigm in selected sea tales of Herman Melville and Jack London

Peter Relph Saiz, Purdue University


This thesis re-evaluates the radical humanism and political consciousness of Melville and London, as well as the question of Melville's influence on London's writings. My study also considers to what extent a re-evaluation of these authors is possible given the prevailing ideologies that inform the ways we persist in reading their texts. I argue that though there has been a flowering of criticism on Melville, and to a lesser extent London, readers are only beginning to understand the social and political significance of their work as it relates to American concerns about social revolution and the working class. ^ Possibly, less attention is given to these writers' conflicts between literary convention and textual analysis. London and Melville are closely allied in subject matter (natives, workers, tyranny, justice, power, will) and demand reading history as literary history. Therefore I claim that aside from its aesthetic value, Melville and London's work serves a social purpose, that it has a distinct politics that makes references to historic problems such as slavery, colonialism, and shifting relations between masters and slaves. ^




Major Professor: G. Richard Thompson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Literature, American

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