Everything we say and write is loaded with assumptions
I wrote this brief section on Melville's life yesterday, assemblng it from a mixture of memory and the Wikipedia article on Melville in the references. Short and apparently innocent as it is, what strikes me about it today is how loaded with assumptions and implicit meanings it is. It defines Melville as a writer, and structures his life around his publications. Those publication dates are what places the work in time - the point at which ideas and stories that may have been brewing in the Melville mind for years become part of the public and commercial entity that is the published work. And underlying that succession of dates is a set of ideas that has become part of the Melville mythology: born into a famous American family, producing a great American novel, then creative decline and death in relative anonymity. Now that may be a helpful map to understand Melville, but it is just a map. I have no direct experience of Melville, and I am building my own stories based largely on the indirect experiences of others. My brief Melville story has no real conception of the domestic and private life of the man - what were his thoughts when out walking? how did he sleep? did he fear death? I can only speculate.
And this Melville myth I'm drawing on was always a construction, built partly for example on the Melville revival in the 1920s, which was also in part an element in a political enterprise wider to construct an American literature and culture and secure its figureheads.
To quote Susan Howe:
I am drawn toward the disciplines of history and literary criticism but in the dawning distance a dark wall of rule supports the structure of every letter, record, transcript: every proof of authority and power
And a brief contextual section on a writer is subject to just the same "dark wall of rule". Howe continues:
I know records are compiled by winners, and scholarship is in collusion with Civil Government. I know this and go on searching for love's unfolding through all the paper in all the libraries I come to. (Susan Howe, The Birth Mark)