The events of the last few years have given the mid-twentieth century fresh salience as a mirror for and guide to our contemporary moment. This article explores an outstanding example of such salience: C. L. R. James's Mariners, Renegades and Castaways: The Story of Herman Melville and the World We Live In (1953). Written under detention by the McCarthy-era U.S. government, James's book reads Melville's Moby Dick as a prophecy of the rise of totalitarianism. In other words, it finds in Melville a mid-nineteenth-century anticipation of some of the twentieth century's quintessential fears. This article argues that both authors' fears are distinctively oceanic: fears aroused by the kind of experience the ocean exemplifies. However, James also finds grounds for hope in the skills and qualities of the maritime community Melville portrays. This article concludes by sketching the present-day resonance of the oceanic fears and maritime hopes James traces in Melville.

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