In the Melville Assignment, you were asked to consider an history of the United States and an idea called “Manifest Destiny.” You were asked to think about that history and its potential relationship to Herman Melville’s short story, “Benito Cereno.” Then, you were asked to consider Melville’s contemporary, Walt Whitman, and his poem, “Pioneers! Oh Pioneers!” and how it might say something different about manifest destiny.
You’ll remember from “Reading Like a New Historicist” that it is important to do research when practicing New Historical criticism. Well, for this assignment, the video on US history and Manifest Destiny is your research. What do the videos tell you about the United States, its consciousness, belief systems, ideologies, conflicts, and contradictions? How does that inform Melville’s story? How does that inform Whitman’s poem?