Beyond the Walls: Being with Each Other in Herman Melville’s Clarel
Herman Melville’s works constitute spaces to analyze the ethico-political potentiality of intersubjectivity for the creation of forms of togetherness that radically question traditional, dividing, categorizations of both personal and communitarian identity such as race, nation and nationality, religion, social class, gender, sexuality, even age. Published in 1876, as the United States celebrated its Centennial, and adopting a Holy Land context that resonates with a postbellum America of violent hatreds and divisions, Melville’s complex narrative poem Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land is an important work to unfold the politics in Melville’s oeuvre. This book argues that Clarel is a universalist poem claiming the and the necessity of intersubjectivity for the creation of plural thinking and more democratic human relationships. At the same time it exposes the egocentrisms and one-sided worldviews hindering this development. Melville’s articulation of intersubjective universalism underlines the impossibility of monolithic “Truth”, as it points to the partiality of any interpretation, as well as to the narrowness, authoritarianism, and (self-)destructive consequences of clinging to one-sided conceptions of meaning.