Men in Coats - Nixon

That classout the gendered economy of the san

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Unformatted text preview: the "contrast peculiargender slippage that McCurdyand Taylor in dress, denoting theirrelativepositions,"suggests performfor Melville on The Southampton. that position of "masterand man" is construedby On anotherlevel, however,Delano's silence and the quantity of clothes worn (57). And Cereno's the suggestive instability of his own authority in spectacularoverdressingin velvets and frothy lace, the face of Cereno's are expressions of social infeconstant attendanceby a valet who straightenshis riority-an inferiorityconnected to the exclusivity silver boot buckles, obsession with his toiletteof the dandy as one of what Willis dubbed the with middayshaves, lotions, scented oils, fine linen "Upper Ten Thousand."7 As Melville suggests, handerkerchiefs-and punctilious courtesy, "even Delano can more easily accommodatethe potential to the point of religion" (115), enhance ratherthan for homosexual overturesthat circulates throughdetract from his authorityfor Delano. That classout the gendered economy of the San Dominick 366 " C ThePoliticsof theDandiacalBodyin Melville's Benito ereno" than he can the accentuation of Cereno's superior social station.Delano expresseshis discomfortwith his feeling of inferiority through chagrin, puzzlement, and silence. This middle-classanxietyis what Babo taps into in his dressing of Cereno in what are, for all their dubious appropriatenesson shipboard,Cereno'sown velvets, laces, andbrocades. Yet the "caprice[s]of punctilio"thatDelano witnesses in Cereno'sdress and mannerare not merely articulationsof an aristocratic,foppish foreignness impenetrableto a blunt Yankee audience (59), for Delano claims often to comprehendthe Spaniard's mannerisms,if not their motivations.He notes Cereno's "cloudy languor,"his impatience with underlings, his "designed manner"and reserve, his "strangeceremoniousness"and "idle caprice of illh humor," is "singularalternationsof courtesy"and what Delano deems "ill-breeding," tempered by "adroit garnish[es] of good-breeding" (63-64). And such behaviorhe diagnoses as motivatedvariously by a lordly disregardfor others, a bout of hypochondria,or a sickly courtliness.I certainlyagree with SandraZagarell that Delano "judgesacts and gesturesin accordancewith how they measureon a scale of politeness"and that"his faith in it obscures the real problem by preventing him from seeing clues as clues" (129-30). But such observations need to be pushed further,because Melville higho lights Delano's concentration n performinganalyses of his own attempted ourtesiesand of Cereno's c seeming lapses in, then recovery of, what Delano deems correct gentility-Delano's middle-class anxieties over whether he is reading the courtly codes correctly, failing to read them, or showing himself to be vulgarlyignorantat everyopportunity. It is, I suggest, in representing elano's simultaD neous claims to familiaritywith dandyishbehavior and to the maintenance of a socially specific silence that Melville marks Cereno as not particularly foreign to northerneyes. Karcher,sensitive to Cereno's cultural recognizability, argues that he correspondsto the "literary tereotypeof the souths ern gentleman"(136) detailedby WilliamTaylorin Cavalier and Yankee,in that Don Benito is brooda ing, consumptive,aristocratic, nd capricious;he is terrifiedby the prospect of slave insurrection,yet he supportsthe continuationof slavery. She views Melville as finally discrediting both the South's hypocrisy and the North's"blandoptimism"(139), as deploring racism but not advocating violence. While Karcher'sargumentis compelling, situating Melville's tale in the context of the escalating secession politics of the 1850s, she draws on only one characterization of the southern gentleman, from Taylor. Not only does this limitation effectively disregardMelville's opinion of the refined, t gentlemanlydandieswho traversed he social landof the North-those who, like Glen Stanly, scape untiedthe "dandyand the man; strengthand effeminacy; courage and indolence"(Pierre 238)-but it equally ignores Melville's northern contemporaries' opinion of southerners. Emersonand HenryAdams,for example, viewed a southerners s mindless,primitivewildmen.Adams maintainedthat they were "quarrelsomeand dangerous," resembling above all their "cavemanancestors" (Taylor 239). And Emerson wrote in his journal in 1837 that they were ignorant, witless, and barely "more civilized than the Seminoles": " the young southerner hasconversedso much with and dogs that he is become himself a rifles, horses, rifle, a horse, and a dog and in civil educatedcompany where anythinghumanis going forwardhe is dumb and unhappy";and as students at Harvard, southerners ere "merebladdersof conceit"(Jourw nals 388-89). For genteel northerners, outherners s as Taylorpoints out, comparableto "Ameriwere, can provin...
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This essay was uploaded on 03/01/2014 for the course ENGLISH 220 taught by Professor Linda during the Spring '11 term at CUNY Hunter.

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