Spanos / Pierre’s Extraordinary Emergency 135
guities of that departed thing or person; obliquely it casts hints, andinsinuates surmises base, and eternally incapable of being cleared.DecreedbyGodOmnipotentitis,thatDeathshouldbethelastsceneof the last act of man’s play;—a play, which begin how it may, in farceor comedy, ever hath its tragic end; the curtain inevitably falls on acorpse. Therefore, never more will I play the vile pygmy, and by smallmemorials after death, attempt to reverse the decree of death, byessaying the poor perpetuating of the image of the original. (
, 197–98)What Pierre is intuiting in discovering the irreducible and thus dread-ful ambiguities subsuming his father’s portrait—the hitherto totally chartedtemporal and spatial world of Saddle Meadows—is precisely what Ishmaeldis-closes in his narration of Ahab’s pursuit of the white whale in
: the essential unnameability, the unpicturability, the unrepresentability,the unsayability of being itself.
In a way that uncannily anticipates the Der-ridean analysis of the non-concept
, the act of naming/picturing/ monumentalizing/mapping is simply the substitution or supplementation ofa sign for that which would be brought to presence.
The process of repre-sentation, whether it takes the form of a memorial portrait, a monument, ashrine, a narrative, a cultural model, or a structural ‘‘world,’’ always alreadypostponesordefersthatwhichitwouldbringtopresence,thatwhichitwouldre-present. This motif of deferral, which is intrinsic to representation in gen-eral and to the American discourse of hegemony in particular, pervadesMelville’s novel. Indeed, it could be said provisionally that it constitutes theirreducible absence that haunts the
of Pierre’s story. And its spec-tral force is underscored precisely because it is precipitated into ‘‘visibility’’as a radically contradictory ‘‘other’’ by the very fulﬁllment in violence of theimperial logic of the American discourse of hegemony.A decisive example of this insistent motif of deferral occurs in Mel-ville’s commentary on Pierre’s burning, but ﬁnally abortive, Titanic desire,in the face of the reigning ‘‘Olympian’’ gods, to write the ‘‘comprehensivelycompact’’ book that would ‘‘gospelize the world anew’’ (
, 273) after having
3. See Spanos,
The Errant Art of Moby-Dick: The Canon, the Cold War, and the Struggle for American Studies
(Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1995), 124–31; 169–72; 197–201; 269–70.4. Jacques Derrida, ‘‘Différance,’’ in
Speech and Phenomena, and Other Essays on Husserl’s Theory of Signs
, trans. David B. Allison (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern UniversityPress, 1973).