Space, Time, and Automata in The Piazza Tales
This chapter considers the tone of dread unifying the disparate tales in Melville’s The Piazza Tales, and argues that the collection’s construction of terror underwrites specifically human encounters between felt subject and perceived other. Drawing upon the spatial and temporal contours of Kierkegaard’s and Heidegger’s theorization of dread, this chapter analyzes how Melville’s tales figure space and time within an unsettling affective matrix that accords with how opens the possibility of perception in the continental philosophical tradition. The chapter concludes that, through the fatal automaton in “The Bell-Tower,” Melville doesn't represent the human as object, but rather the perfect human subject whose very possibility is felt by the dread of our distance from it. Whereas this book begins with the terrors of objectivity, Edwards’s version of the will bound inextricably to the terrors of hell, it ends with a portrait of the terror of the perfect ideal subject.
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