“The Master-Key of Our Theme”: Master Betty and the Politics of Theatricality in Herman Melville's “The Fiddler”

Collins, Michael James (2012) “The Master-Key of Our Theme”: Master Betty and the Politics of Theatricality in Herman Melville's “The Fiddler”. Journal of American Studies, 47 (03). pp. 759-776. ISSN 0021-8758. (doi:https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021875812001259) (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

In what is by now among the more famous personal histories in American studies, by 1852 Herman Melville was facing bankruptcy and personal ruin after the financial failures of Moby-Dick and Pierre. Under the guidance of the new editor of Putnam’s Magazine, Charles Briggs, Melville turned to writing magazine fiction. Building upon work that seeks to show how Melville in his short stories negotiated the terrain between the riotous world of the popular press and the sanctified realm of high art, this article looks at a frequently neglected work by Melville from 1854, “The Fiddler,” as a response to this personal crisis. I show how Melville’s story resurrects a forgotten transatlantic history (the life of the Irish actor Master William Henry West Betty) as a means to explore his own search for an aesthetic that could adequately serve both the demands of the spectacular world of antebellum publishing and his own high literary ambitions.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of English
Faculties > University wide - Teaching/Research Groups > Centre for American Studies
Depositing User: M. Collins
Date Deposited: 20 Nov 2015 11:02 UTC
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2015 11:36 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/52110 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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