Modernity at Sea: Melville, Marx, Conrad in Crisis

By Cesare Casarino | Go to book overview

TWO
In the Nick of Time; or,
Heterochronoiogies of Modernity

Economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself.

Karl Marx, Grundrisse

Let us forget the scourge and the gangway awhile, and jot down in our mem-
ories a few little things pertaining to our man-of-war world. I let nothing
slip, however small; and feel myself actuated by the same motive which has
prompted many worthy old chroniclers, to set down the merest trifles con-
cerning things that are destined to pass away entirely from the earth, and
which, if not preserved in the nick of time, must infallibly perish from the
memories of man. Who knows that this humble narrative may not hereafter
prove the history of an obsolete barbarism? Who knows that, when men-of-
war shall be no more, White-Jacket may not be quoted to show the people in
the Millennium what a man-of-war was? God hasten the time! Lo! ye years,
escort it hither, and bless our eyes ere we the.1

THIS PASSAGE speaks of memory. It begins and ends with suggestions of forgetting, images of obliteration tinged by hints of dies irae. And yet the fulcrum of the whole passage is the act of remembering, of recording, of preserving precisely that “obsolete barbarism” it wishes to banish from history altogether. “Let us forget the scourge and the gangway awhile, and jot down in our memories a few little things”: the sec

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