Sinn und Zweck Bearbeiten

Hier stelle ich kurz und knapp einige Gedanken erneut vor,die ich zuvor in Form von Vorträgen zu vermitteln versucht habe. So soll eine Möglichkeit geschaffen werden,sich noch einmal intensiver mit der Thematik beschäftigen zu können. Nachfragen/Diskussionen sind nicht nur erlaubt,sondern erwünscht.

aktueller Vortrag:"Bartleby the scrivenger" Bearbeiten

Bei der Erschließung des Textes legte ich Wert auf folgende Problemfelder

Individium&society Bearbeiten

  • historical context:Being published in 1849 the story is indirectly dealing with the consequences of industrialization:technical development(ex.:invention of the steam engine),change of factors of production,exploitation etc,because all these developments threat the individium and ask the following question:
  • How can the individium maintain in a society which is limiting individual freedom by strict normative rules?

(Funny enough this kind of society enables the individium at the same time to be individualistic.Examples:Railway and the growing importance of the city purveyed the infrastructure to do so.)

Melville portrais two different characters with highly different solutions:

There is the "Lawyer" who fully accepts the values of society:

"Still further to a satisfactory arrangement,I procured a high green folding screen, which might entirely isolate Bartleby from my sight, though not remove him from my voice.And thus, in a manner, privacy and society were conjoined."He can unite the individualistic urges with the demands of society.This is no miracle because as a lawyer he is (figuratively) somebody who creates the rules of society,and takes advantage of them.Therefore he wants to maintain the society and insists on his utiliarist view on things:"I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he been cheerfully industrious".."he is useful to me"(Lawyer on Bartleby)

On the other hand there is "Bartleby",who in the end alienates himself from society:

He stops to obey the commands of the "Lawyer"(society). Later on he even stops writing, which can be seen as a complete refusal of society. (think of the meaning/function of writing itself,doesn´t writing mean the beginning of cultural evolution,and therefore the beginning of society in general?) His otherness is also depicted in different ways: "I remembered that he never spoke but to answer,that,though at intervals he had considerable time to himself,yet I had never seen him reading-no,not even a newspaper….I was quit sure he never visited any refectory or eating-house;while his pale face clearly indicated that he never drank beer like turkey,or tea and coffee even,like other men;that he never went anywhere in particular that I could learn;never went out for a walk,unless, indeed, that was the case at present;that he had declined telling who he was, or whence he came, or whether he had any relatives in the world;that though so thin and pale,he never complained of ill-health.And more than all, I remembered a certain unconscious air of pallid-how shall I call it?-of pallid haughtyness.."

Religious Struggle Bearbeiten

  • Religious groups set as well strict rules of how to behave and what to think.Thus the same conflict between individium and denomination (Glaubensgemeinschaft)is preassigned.Bartleby depicts this conflict,by experiencing a religious crisis:

Phase 1:

Bartleby accepts the rules of society.He works "industrious".

This attitude is caused by his faithfullness.It is the existence of god, who gives him the reason to work that hard.Having been employed at a dead letter office,where one is confronted with dead every day,this urge for a sense in life is comprehensible.His close connection to god can be seen in the following excerpt:

"I placed his desk close up to a small side-window in that part of the room, a window which originally had afforded a lateral view of certain grimy backyards and bricks, but which, owing to subsequent erections, commanded at present no view at all, though it gave some light.Within three feet of the panes was a wall, and the light came down from far above, between two lofty buildings, as from a very small opening in a dome."

Phase 2:

Bartleby´s vision gets impaired, which means he has lost all faith in god.Live has no sense.Therefore he stops writing(=working=being?)and finally dies.

"The next day I noticed that Bartleby did nothing but stand at his window in his dead-wall revery.Upon asking him why he did not write, he said that he had decided upon doing no more writing. Why, how now? What next?exclaimed I,"do no more writing?" "No more." "And what is the reason?" "Do you not see the reason for yourself?" he indifferently replied. I looked steadfastly at him, and perceived that his eyes looked dull and glazed.Instantly it occured to me,that his unexampled diligence in copying by his dim window for the first few weeks of his stay with me might have temporarily impaired his vision."

Interestingly there is no clear reason for this religious struggle.Some interpretations of the story try to find answers in Melville´s own religious problems:

Melville was raised in a very devout family.But during his life he more and more removed himself from the calvinistic belief,by questioning god himself,because he is the creator of the evil:

"And God caused to spring up also out of the earth every tree beautiful to the eye and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

"And it was so after some time that Cain brought a sacrifice to the Lord of the fruits of the earth. And Abel also brought of the firstborn of his sheep and of his fatlings(junges Masttier) . And God looked upon Abel and his gifts, but Cain and his sacrifices He regarded not, and Cain was exceedingly sorrowful and his countenance fell.And the Lord God said to Cain, “Why are you downcast, and why has your countenance fallen? Have you not sinned if you have brought it rightly, but not rightly divided it? Be still, to you shall be his submission, and you shall rule over him.”

Melville and Modern Literature Bearbeiten

I claim,that Melville is one of the most important founding fathers of modern literature.

In order to proove this assumption I want to compare his work with the other authors we dealt in class with.Similar to the modern authors,writers of the 19th century have already begun to display the Expansion of the "I",the quest for freedom,independance and Identity.But their aim was rather to offer the reader a moral frame,which would help him to maintain in agitated times.The seduction novel "Charlotte Temple" could be seen as fitting example,but also Hawthorne´s "Scarlet Letter"can be read as a novel of moral values.(Admittedly,Hawthorne´s questioning of social conventions and the use of allegories("Hester")and symbols("a") indicates already the rise of modern literature.Nevertheless Hawthorne claims to convey a representive view on things.)

Melville exagerates the expansion of the "I" towards questions of agnosis(Erkenntnisfragen):

What is the Individium?(The Lawyer tries to solve this question without success.The individium as the inscrutable(comparison"Camus,L'Étranger")

What´s the sense of living?

What do I know?

Is there truth?

by using




historical references:"Gaius Marius"

intertextuality: "Some days passed,during which,at leisure intervals i looked a little into "Edwards on the Will" and Priestley on Necessity"

Interestingly he doesn´t provide clear answers to those questions.The reading becomes a neverending process of trying to understand the individium..Thus the aesthetic function of a text becomes more important than the metaphysical.This is again a difference to the Transzendentalists who claim to find a individual approach to truth,and god..("direct link to god")..