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Emergent WorldsAlternative States in Nineteenth-Century American Culture$
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Edward Sugden

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781479899692

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479899692.001.0001

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Ishmael in the Water

(p.187) Coda
Emergent Worlds

Edward Sugden

NYU Press

This coda considers how and why it is that the emergent worlds chronicled in this book have become legible to us now. It seeks to reflect on the contemporary conditions that have made the testimonies and archives covered across the three chapters comprehensible on their own terms, rather than through the lens of a later modernity. It concludes that we now live in a comparably interstitial age as the worlds that make up this book. More precisely, it studies Ishmael in the water at the end of Moby-Dick and suggests that this episode represents a point after a threshold, where he had left the chaotic Pacific and had entered into the beginnings of American modernity. In and around 2001, that era of modernity began to decline, and a new period of systemic uncertainty, our own, began. Ishmael is at the entrance, we at the exit to that age. Ishmael, as he drifts in the water, thus gestures toward anterior ages of transition but also to our future, warning us of the catastrophic consequences of failing to take advantage of these moments of historical promise.

Keywords:   emergent worlds, Moby-Dick, modernity, systemic uncertainty, Ishmael

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