Notes on Bartleby

Notes on Bartleby - E 316K, Berry For Your Convenience:...

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E 316K, Berry For Your Convenience: Notes on “Bartleby”! Melville’s story about Bartleby (a well known and oft-quoted figure in American literature) shows us the flip side of Emersonian Optimism. Melville’s story is about assembly line-type [albeit “white collar” rather than “blue collar” work (in Melville the setting is a Wall Street law firm which specializes in financial legal concerns, primarily—obviously—of the well-off or wealthy)]. Communication among the hierarchy of boss and employees break down. Work— the repetitive work here in particular, since a scrivener like Bartleby essentially acts as a human Xerox machine— is shown to be stultifying to the spirit, particularly to the individual spirit. Such work easily produces neuroses, or behavioral ticks, in people; note here the examples of Bartleby’s office mates Turkey and Nippers. Certainly Bartleby takes the cake regarding neurotic behavior, however (or is he just a cautionless rebel of sorts?), as the workplace, despite his famous repeated five-word quote, is decidedly not a place of preferences. Emerson’s “The American Scholar,” in contrast, reveals the possibilities of the individual to be positive and endless, the world of nature a great training ground and life to be lived fully and honestly. So we can see that Melville’s story—though it presents the other side of this buoyant
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This note was uploaded on 09/22/2010 for the course E 33965 taught by Professor Berry during the Spring '09 term at University of Texas.

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Notes on Bartleby - E 316K, Berry For Your Convenience:...

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