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Mariners, Renegades and Castaways

The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In

C.L.R. James

Political theorist and cultural critic, novelist and cricket enthusiast, C. L. R. James (1901 – 1989) was a brilliant polymath who has been described by Edward Said as “a centrally important 20th-century figure.” Through such landmark works as The Black Jacobins, Beyond a Boundary, and American Civilization, James’s thought continues to influence and inspire scholars in a wide variety of fields. “There is little doubt,” wrote novelist Caryl Phillips in The New Republic, “that James will come to be regarded as the outstanding Caribbean mind of the twentieth century.”

In his seminal work of literary and cultural criticism, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways, James anticipated many of the concerns and ideas that have shaped the contemporary fields of American and Postcolonial Studies, yet this widely influential book has been unavailable in its complete form since its original publication in 1953. A provocative study of Moby Dick in which James challenged the prevailing Americanist interpretation that opposed a “totalitarian” Ahab and a “democratic, American” Ishmael, he offered instead a vision of a factory-like Pequod whose “captain of industry” leads the “mariners, renegades and castaways” of its crew to their doom.

In addition to demonstrating how such an interpretation supported the emerging US national security state, James also related the narrative of Moby Dick, and its resonance in American literary and political culture, to his own persecuted position at the height (or the depth) of the Truman/McCarthy era. It is precisely this personal, deeply original material that was excised from the only subsequent edition. With a new introduction by Donald E. Pease that places the work in its critical and cultural context, Mariners, Renegades and Castaways is once again available in its complete form.

Paper: $24.95
ISBN-13: 9781584650942
Pages: 216 | Size: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
Date Published: May 1, 2001

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Reviews

  • [An] amalgam of brilliant critical analysis and desperate personal pleading . . . The publication of Mariners, Renegades and Castaways by the University Press of New England this summer – the first time the book has been printed in complete form in nearly 50 years – is simply the latest evidence of a major James revival now under way . . . [James’s] posthumous popularity makes sense. Just as he argued that Melville’s novel ‘is alive today as never before since it was written,’ James’s work from more than 50 years ago neatly prefigured an impressive number of contemporary academic trends.

    The New York Times

About the Author

Donald E. Pease

Donald E. Pease, Avalon Professor of Humanities, Dartmouth College, author of Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context (1987), editor (with Amy Kaplan) of Cultures of United States Imperialism (1993), and editor of the Duke University Press series The New Americanists, provides a lengthy introduction to this book and its history.

C.L.R. James

Born in Trinidad in 1901, C. L. R. James moved to England in 1932 where he was a leading Marxist theorist, a founder of the Pan-African movement, cricket correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, and author of numerous books, including the influential history of the Haitian slave rebellion, The Black Jacobins (1938). From 1938 to 1953 he lived in the United States, where he wrote, lectured, and organized for the Socialist Worker’s Party and was a leader of the Trotskyite …

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