Jack Tar's Perilous World : Privateers, Impressed Seafarers, Whalemen, Nautical Abolitionists & Traumatic Memory in the American Maritime Narrative

Martin, Zachary John
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[Honolulu] : [University of Hawaii at Manoa], [December 2013]
Memories that are written down become history, and they "are texts that have their own literary form." This dissertation examines ordinary seafarers' memories of horrific maritime events and observes those written recollections described in maritime narratives as tragic reminders of a brutal and perilous maritime world. Seafarers experienced tragedy and their memories of those events are a historical indicator of both their social legacies and communal endeavors. Yet these same maritime narratives describe the reality of what America's maritime heritage looked like, from the American Revolution until the American Civil War, and the risks that awaited young men at sea. This dissertation examines the memories of ordinary American seamen, mainly young New Englanders, all of whom experienced traumatic maritime events and each set his recollections to paper in the form of memoirs or autobiographies. It assesses seafarers' narratives as a historical genre distinct from, yet complementary to, the literary work of such seamen-novelists as Herman Melville. The writings of some sailors about their traumatic pasts acted as a coping mechanism to come to terms with harrowing memories. Other sailors, capitalizing on their social and cultural capital, sought to intertwine their memories and traumatic exposures within a life-story to suggest that their worthiness to be thought common American "heroes" was not simply owing to their survival, but to diligence and pursuit of greatness. The traumatic reality of the maritime world has been shaped by literary and popular fictional culture, but the collective memories formed in fiction were motived by reality. The memories of American sailors--notably privateers, impressed seafarers, whalemen, and nautical abolitionists--are what inspired these fictions. These seamen are all historically connected, even if living at different times, sailing the ocean for diverse reasons, and facing varying oceanic dangers. This connection is observed through the types of memories they reflected on and how each sailors "sea eye" witnessed a dark side of the maritime world. This dissertation seeks to initiate a rereading of those nautical tales and a renewed emphasis on their disturbing memories as keys to observing that elusive, and perilous, maritime world they each sailed into.
Ph.D. University of Hawaii at Manoa 2013.
Includes bibliographical references.
Jack Tar, trauma, post-traumatic, maritime, memory
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