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This presentation will focus on Melville's period in and around Tahiti in 1842, a part of the biographical record vexed by conflicting scholarly accounts of Melville's whereabouts and actions, and by inconsistencies—as well as outright falsehoods—among surviving documents and the author's own account of his experiences in his second book Omoo. Digitally expanding on methods of traditional scholarship, I will present the evidence in visual, electronic form by using ArcGIS software to map Melville’s movements, supplying relevant data and documentation and mapping alternate interpretations of the author's travels. The layered digital maps will locate the author at specific dates and locations and will pinpoint the gaps and contradictions in our current knowledge. Along with presenting complex evidence in a vivid and user-friendly format, my talk will consider conflicting accounts of Melville’s imprisonment in a Tahitian calaboose with fellow sailors who had refused duty aboard the whaleship Lucy Ann. According to Edward Lucett's account of his own imprisonment there in Rovings in the Pacific, Melville was the chief assailant in an assault he suffered at the hands of the incarcerated "mutineers." Major scholars since Jay Leyda have rejected Lucett's claim by arguing that Melville had escaped Tahiti by the time of Lucett's imprisonment, with Hershel Parker asserting that Melville's name and identity were "appropriated" by a remaining prisoner who perpetrated the abuse. Recently, however, Robert Suggs has sought to credit Lucett's accusation while attributing the deed to violent tendencies in Melville's character. While scholarship is divided regarding the veracity of Lucett’s claim and the known whereabouts of Melville on November 18, 1842, my paper will provide the fullest examination of surviving documents since Harrison Hayford conducted his research for the Hendricks House edition of Omoo (1969). I will compare Melville’s and Lucett’s accounts of the calaboose, will investigate current scholarly claims, and will focus on the existing evidence to determine what we can reliably conclude regarding Melville’s involvement in the incident.
Ewing, Jessica, "Melville in Tahiti: A GIS Approach" (2013). Student Research Initiative. 2.