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The Sound of Incest: Sympathetic Resonance in Melville's Pierre

The Sound of Incest: Sympathetic Resonance in Melville's Pierre Abstract In recent criticism of Herman Melville's Pierre , Pierre's incestuous desire poses a challenge to the sympathetic model of democratic sociality: in transgressing filial distinctions, it erases the difference that makes sympathy possible and illustrates a limit point to the fantasy of national consanguinity. What remains to be theorized in relation to this, however, is the significance of the novel's predominant obsession with sound, both as literary style and as narrative event. This essay proposes that by considering the scientific and literary sources of the sonic framework of incest in Pierre , we find incest occupying an important threshold between significance and sound, between meaning and unmeaning. The first part of the essay reveals that Melville borrows from Poe a gothic “sound” that emphasizes the physical nature of language. The second part of the essay explores the history and significance to Melville of a unique acoustic phenomenon known as sympathetic resonance that, in Pierre , models the relation between sound and significance that is threatened by the possibility of incest. And the essay's final part shows how Melville's insistent figurations of the problem of incest through dialogue with inanimate objects reflects the special problem that the incest taboo poses to debates between cultural and biological approaches to the study of human behavior. The sound of incest in Pierre thus can be seen to generate a metaphysical skepticism that does not frustrate desire but sustains and extends its reach from the freighted symbolism of the household to the natural materialism of the individual body. CiteULike Complore Connotea Delicious Digg Facebook Google+ Reddit Technorati Twitter What's this? « Previous | Next Article » Table of Contents This Article doi: 10.1215/00295132-1260977 Novel 2011 Volume 44, Number 2: 249-267 » Abstract Full Text (PDF) References Classifications Article Services Email this article to a colleague Alert me when this article is cited Alert me if a correction is posted Similar articles in this journal Similar articles in Web of Science Download to citation manager Citing Articles Load citing article information Citing articles via Web of Science Google Scholar Articles by Hurh, P. Related Content Load related web page information Social Bookmarking CiteULike Complore Connotea Delicious Digg Facebook Google+ Reddit Technorati Twitter What's this? Current Issue Summer 2011, 44 (2) Alert me to new issues of Novel Duke University Press Journals ONLINE About the Journal Editorial Board Submission Guidelines Permissions Advertising Indexing / Abstracting Privacy Policy Subscriptions Library Resource Center Activation / Acct. Mgr. E-mail Alerts Help Feedback © 2011 by Novel, Inc. Print ISSN: 0029-5132 Online ISSN: 1945-8509 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Novel: A Forum on Fiction Duke University Press

The Sound of Incest: Sympathetic Resonance in Melville's Pierre

Novel: A Forum on Fiction , Volume 44 (2) – Jun 20, 2011

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright © Duke Univ Press
ISSN
0029-5132
eISSN
1945-8509
DOI
10.1215/00295132-1260977
Publisher site
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Abstract

Abstract In recent criticism of Herman Melville's Pierre , Pierre's incestuous desire poses a challenge to the sympathetic model of democratic sociality: in transgressing filial distinctions, it erases the difference that makes sympathy possible and illustrates a limit point to the fantasy of national consanguinity. What remains to be theorized in relation to this, however, is the significance of the novel's predominant obsession with sound, both as literary style and as narrative event. This essay proposes that by considering the scientific and literary sources of the sonic framework of incest in Pierre , we find incest occupying an important threshold between significance and sound, between meaning and unmeaning. The first part of the essay reveals that Melville borrows from Poe a gothic “sound” that emphasizes the physical nature of language. The second part of the essay explores the history and significance to Melville of a unique acoustic phenomenon known as sympathetic resonance that, in Pierre , models the relation between sound and significance that is threatened by the possibility of incest. And the essay's final part shows how Melville's insistent figurations of the problem of incest through dialogue with inanimate objects reflects the special problem that the incest taboo poses to debates between cultural and biological approaches to the study of human behavior. The sound of incest in Pierre thus can be seen to generate a metaphysical skepticism that does not frustrate desire but sustains and extends its reach from the freighted symbolism of the household to the natural materialism of the individual body. CiteULike Complore Connotea Delicious Digg Facebook Google+ Reddit Technorati Twitter What's this? « Previous | Next Article » Table of Contents This Article doi: 10.1215/00295132-1260977 Novel 2011 Volume 44, Number 2: 249-267 » Abstract Full Text (PDF) References Classifications Article Services Email this article to a colleague Alert me when this article is cited Alert me if a correction is posted Similar articles in this journal Similar articles in Web of Science Download to citation manager Citing Articles Load citing article information Citing articles via Web of Science Google Scholar Articles by Hurh, P. Related Content Load related web page information Social Bookmarking CiteULike Complore Connotea Delicious Digg Facebook Google+ Reddit Technorati Twitter What's this? Current Issue Summer 2011, 44 (2) Alert me to new issues of Novel Duke University Press Journals ONLINE About the Journal Editorial Board Submission Guidelines Permissions Advertising Indexing / Abstracting Privacy Policy Subscriptions Library Resource Center Activation / Acct. Mgr. E-mail Alerts Help Feedback © 2011 by Novel, Inc. Print ISSN: 0029-5132 Online ISSN: 1945-8509

Journal

Novel: A Forum on FictionDuke University Press

Published: Jun 20, 2011

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