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Unformatted text preview: (Foucault 25; emphasis mine), for the evils of its continuedpresence in
America infused Northernideologues' salvos-or,
better, its absence from the North offered a moral
high ground that allowed for the celebration of a
supposedlysuperior,democraticsociety full of free
laboringfolk. But as Melville's tale suggests, once
the political field is limited to the Northalone, once
the poor black body ceases to be the pretext that
enables the rhetoricalfashioningof northern omothat political field is articulatedtropically
and socially along class lines that look more to
coats than to men to emit the most importantsigns.
What "Benito Cereno" does five years before the
Civil War,then, is to map out the politics and poetics of evasion-delineating the cloaked strugglefor
class ascension within the supposedly democratic
North and exposing the rhetorical "region of [. ..] cloaked malice" (Burke 19) thatposits a plain truth
always Saxon and neverAfrican. I often hear and read somewhat concerning its repulsive style.
Certainly I tell them, it is very odd. Yet I read a chapter lately
with greatpleasure"(Correspondence 6-87).
3MichaelRogin refers to Carlyle in an excellent examination
of Melville's father,Allan Melvill, who owned first a New York
French-fashionemporiumand then a hat companybefore going
bankrupt.Melvill deplored the "fripperyand dandyism of the
age" and the "imported Coxcomb[s]" of New York (qtd. in
Rogin 25), and he found the marketplacean "arenaof masquerade" where "eachbourgeois hid his own self-aggrandizingpure
poses behind a confidence-inspiring xterior"(27).
4Franklinemphasizes Melville's reading of Fraser's Magazine when he makes the case for Melville's use of Stirling's
"TheCloister-Lifeof the EmperorCharlesV" (137-50).
5Stultzeis mentionedrepeatedlyin early- and mid-nineteenthcenturyjournals as if he were a prominenttailor of the day, but
the OED defines stult as a "derisive name for a tailor" and
quotes a reference in M. Locke's English Opera, of 1675, to "a
Botching Stult, who, being obliged to make Habits for men,
cuts them out for Children."
6Zagarell bservesthatthe slaves feminize Cereno"bycasting
him in a powerlessrole which often rendershim [. . .] a parodyof
the fragile, genteel lady.Cerenoevinces the consequencesof his
emasculationby respondingas thoughhe hadbeen raped" 134).
7Willis coined the term "UpperTen Thousand"when he was
the editorof the New York irror.I am gratefulto SandraTomc
for this reference. WorksCited
I would like to thank Sandra Tomc, Marcie Frank, and Eric
Savoy for their valuablehelp with earlierversions of this paper;
Robert K. Martin,David Ketterer,and RobertPhilmus for their
comments and suggestions; and my research assistant, Julie
Godin, for all her hardwork.
'FromOctober1844 to January1845 NathanielParker illis's
New York irrorran a piece called "Battleof the Cravats" bout
the "YoungEngland"dandyishwearingof the white cravatas an
aristocratic ffectation.New York n Slices (1849), a collection of
anonymous contributions to the New YorkTribune, included
"Slice XX-The Dandies,"whose authorarguedthat "New York
is the only city and Broadwaythe only streetin which any thing
like a respectable assortmentof Dandies can be found"(Foster
76). The firstvolume of the New York ournal(1853-54) rancartoons of dandy "cocksparrows" nd containeda commentaryon
the Broadwaydandy:"Yourfirst-ratedandy is perfect in all his
appointments. e is dressedwith the most consummateskill and
exquisite taste. [.. .] His manner,besides, is exceedingly polished, he is well versed in all polite things, and his urbanityand
suavity are excellent things to copy. But your ignorant,coarse,
besotted snobbish dandy [.. .] is an abomination"(Misc. item).
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