Jack London and the Sea (Studies in American Literary Realism and Naturalism) (Hardcover)

Jack London and the Sea (Studies in American Literary Realism and Naturalism) By Anita Duneer Cover Image
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The first book-length study of London as a maritime writer

Jack London’s fiction has been studied previously for its thematic connections to the ocean, but Jack London and the Sea marks the first time that his life as a writer has been considered extensively in relationship to his own sailing history and interests. In this new study, Anita Duneer claims a central place for London in the maritime literary tradition, arguing that for him romance and nostalgia for the Age of Sail work with and against the portrayal of a gritty social realism associated with American naturalism in urban or rural settings. The sea provides a dynamic setting for London’s navigation of romance, naturalism, and realism to interrogate key social and philosophical dilemmas of modernity: race, class, and gender. Furthermore, the maritime tradition spills over into texts that are not set at sea.
Jack London and the Sea does not address all of London’s sea stories, but rather identifies key maritime motifs that influenced his creative process. Duneer’s critical methodology employs techniques of literary and cultural analysis, drawing on extensive archival research from a wealth of previously unpublished biographical materials and other sources. Duneer explores London’s immersion in the lore and literature of the sea, revealing the extent to which his writing is informed by travel narratives, sensational sea yarns, and the history of exploration, as well as firsthand experiences as a sailor in the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean.
Organized thematically, chapters address topics that interested London: labor abuses on “Hell-ships” and copra plantations, predatory and survival cannibalism, strong seafaring women, and environmental issues and property rights from San Francisco oyster beds to pearl diving in the Paumotos. Through its examination of the intersections of race, class, and gender in London’s writing, Jack London and the Sea plumbs the often-troubled waters of his representations of the racial Other and positions of capitalist and colonial privilege. We can see the manifestation of these socioeconomic hierarchies in London’s depiction of imperialist exploitation of labor and the environment, inequities that continue to reverberate in our current age of global capitalism.


About the Author

Anita Duneer is professor of English at Rhode Island College. Her scholarship has appeared in The Oxford Handbook of Literary Realism, Studies in American Naturalism, and American Literary Realism, among other places.

Praise For…

“This superb book is a lasting contribution to Jack London studies, Naturalism, and American literature by a highly recognized expert on London’s literary works and an experienced sailor.”
—Jeanne Campbell Reesman, author of Jack London’s Racial Lives: A Critical Biography
“Duneer’s fresh discoveries and interpretations, informed by her deep knowledge of London, of maritime traditions, and of travel narratives and literary treatments of the sea, make this book an original and significant contribution to the fields of American literature, maritime literature, and Jack London studies.”
—Donna Campbell, author of Bitter Tastes: Literary Naturalism and Early Cinema in American Women’s Writing
Jack London and the Sea is an impressive achievement. Drawing upon a thorough understanding of nautical lore, both actual and fictional, Anita Duneer documents the centrality of the sea to London’s work, with illuminating connections to historical, literary, contextual, and manuscript sources. Duneer shows that London’s sea fiction is a significant body of work rivaling the importance and influence of his better-known Klondike fiction. Written in lucid prose and an engaging style, Jack London and the Sea is a rich and provocative study, sure to interest readers of London’s work and South Seas fiction more generally.”
—Keith Newlin, Editor, Studies in American Naturalism
Product Details
ISBN: 9780817321253
ISBN-10: 081732125X
Publisher: University Alabama Press
Publication Date: September 6th, 2022
Pages: 240
Language: English
Series: Studies in American Literary Realism and Naturalism