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The “Plain facts” of fine paper in “The paradise of bachelors and the tartarus of maids”

Thompson, Graham

Authors

Graham Thompson



Abstract

This essay intervenes in conversations about mid-nineteenth-century authorship and print culture by distinguishing between the economy of paper and the economy of print. He argues that critical treatments of Melville’s work, and particularly “The Paradise of Bachelors and the Tartarus of Maids” (1855), have not adequately attended to the material economy of paper that existed for Melville before the cycle of literary publication, distribution, and circulation began. Living in the important papermaking region of rural west Massachusetts allowed Melville to experience the raw materials of that economic sector not as a distant or vicarious consumer but, following his visit to the Old Berkshire Mill in Dalton in the winter of 1851, as a specialized purchaser. Instead of treating paper as a metonym of literary-market exchange, then, Thompson’s essay examines Melville’s experience and imagining of this raw material—literally avant la lettre—as a way of better understanding the economy of a substance whose manufactured sizes (folio, octavo, and duodecimo) he had already used to classify whales in Moby-Dick and on which his recalcitrant copyist, Bartleby, refuses to write.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Sep 1, 2012
Journal American Literature
Print ISSN 0002-9831
Electronic ISSN 1527-2117
Publisher Duke University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 84
Issue 3
Institution Citation Thompson, G. (2012). The “Plain facts” of fine paper in “The paradise of bachelors and the tartarus of maids”. American Literature, 84(3), doi:10.1215/00029831-1664701
DOI https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-1664701
Keywords American literature, Melville, Paper, Short story
Publisher URL http://americanliterature.dukejournals.org/content/84/3/505
Copyright Statement Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingh.../end_user_agreement.pdf
Additional Information © 2012 by Duke University Press

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Copyright Statement
Copyright information regarding this work can be found at the following address: http://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/end_user_agreement.pdf





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