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A Passion for Getting It Right

Essays and Appreciations in Honor of Michael J. Colacurcio’s 50 Years of Teaching

Edited By Carol M. Bensick

For 50 years Michael J. Colacurcio has been a leader in the criticism of early and antebellum American literature. In The Province of Piety, New Essays on The Scarlet Letter, Doctrine and Difference, and Godly Letters, as well as editions and often-reprinted reviews and essays, Dr. Colacurcio has continued to defend a rare vision of the political and intellectual depth of America’s serious fiction and the aesthetic power and charm of its religious poetry and prose. In light of many honors such as the Book of the Year Award from the Conference of Christianity and Literature and election in 2007 to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, UCLA raised him to the rank of Distinguished Professor. Yet for all his dedication to research, his students know him as an unforgettable teacher, who has continued to win several teaching awards at both Cornell and UCLA. The present volume aspires to celebrate Dr. Colacurcio’s 50 years of transformative teaching through an exciting bounty of original and classic essays by some of his most talented students and eminent colleagues from his very first years at Cornell up to and including his current students at UCLA.
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Cassandra, Bartleby, and the Direction of Time: Some Thoughts on Unknowability

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MARTIN GRIFFIN

Though our academic object as textual explicators must begin with what is articulated in a given text, we must always reserve a margin to deal with what is excluded from articulation, no matter the apparent inclusiveness.

—Samuel R. Delany

Maybe it was a minor touch of summer madness, but the opportunity offered by this Festschrift volume for Michael Colacurcio opened up the possibility of returning to some old, abandoned, and slightly transgressive thoughts on Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” These are thoughts that I, a graduate student at UCLA, typed up for Michael at some point around fifteen years ago, and he was patient enough to read my page of speculation and give it back the next day with a friendly grimace, a slight rolling of the eyes, and (I am guessing) an unexpressed question as to where he had gone wrong with me. This short essay, the result of that going back, looks at Herman Melville’s narrative from a perspective informed by modern considerations of memory, trauma, and prophecy, but also reads the text against some questions of genre, especially as they pertain to recent theoretical work on unnatural narrative in fiction.1 My comments on “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” are framed by a brief discussion of Aeschylus’s Agamemnon at the outset and some comments on Brian Aldiss’s 1967 novel Cryptozoic! at the conclusion, and my general argument involves shifting what one might call the genre perspective...

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