Melville Society Extracts

Melville Society Extracts is a magazine specializing in Literature topics.

Articles

No. 129, July

Moby-Dick and John Singleton Copley's Watson and the Shark
The visual arts played a significant role in Melville's writing, and especially in the crafting of Moby-Dick. Scholars have identified many of the artworks that inspired Melville during the writing of his whaling novel. (1) However, this exploration...
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Cetology Now: A Sketch for the Twenty-First Century
In his "Cetology" chapter in Moby-Dick, Melville, through the narrative voice of Ishmael, seeks to take the measure of whales of all sizes and dispositions. Tacking away from the ready book-learning categories of Cuvier and Linnaeus and the emergent...
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The Scorpion's Suicide: Claggart's Death in Billy Budd
There are people dedicated to evil in the world," writes Arthur Miller in the Introduction to his Collected Plays. "'Evil is not a mistake but a fact in itself.... I think now that one of the hidden weaknesses of our whole approach to dramatic psychology...
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"Herman Melville and the Spanish Inquisition"
A close reading of Melville reveals numerous allusions to the Spanish Inquisition. This paper argues that the Inquisition functions in Melville's work as a multi-faceted trope for despotic authority. It begins by highlighting the instrumental presence...
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"Culpability and Transgression in the Monomania of Ahab"
Accounts of Ahab's hunt for the white whale in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, from both Ishmael, and research literature, typically separate transgression from monomania; after all, purposive action is not the hallmark of monomania, nor many other psychological...
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"'A New Race Has Sprung Up': 'Bartleby' and the Prudent Person Standard."
In "Bartleby the Scrivener," Melville addressed a debate over changing civic values in America, configured around the concept of prudence. One of Cicero's cardinal virtues, prudence was a well-respected quality among lawyers and judges of the generation...
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Treasurer's Report
Note: After the sudden death of Bryan Short in December, 2003, I assumed treasurer duties on an interim basis because I had held the office previously. It took most of 2004 to make the transition and square accounts, and no treasurer's report appeared...
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All Astir
This spring marks the third year of the Melville Society Cultural Project s programming with the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and we are pleased with the richness and coherence of our events. The 2005 Melville Lyceum Lecture Series presented three lectures...
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No. 128, February

Robert E. Lee and Melville's Politics in Battle-Pieces and Aspects of War
Melville's Civil War poems present a temptation we should resist. Seeing poems on famous battles (Donaldson, Shiloh, and Gettysburg) or famous men (John Brown, Abraham Lincoln, and Robert E. Lee), we are tempted to excise--to take out of context--one...
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Melville Poem Recalls an Elusive Target
[A version of this essay, giving the geographical and historical details of Melville's source material for "The Scout Toward Aldie," appeared in the Washington Post on April 18, 2004. Eugene Scheel writes of a visit to Middleburg, VA where he meets...
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MLA 2004-Philadelphia "Melville's Dialogic Muse"
Melville has long tantalized readers for a variety of reasons; however, one of the key marks of his poetry and fiction is its multi-voiced quality: its projection of multiple viewpoints within a single poem, or even within a single narratorial voice....
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The Entangled Rhyme: Melville and the Maze of War
Herman Melville's Civil War collection of poetry, Battle-Pieces, constitutes an interesting version of Bakhtin's "dialogic imagination." Bakhtin famously defined dialogic (and heteroglossic) discourse as the distinguishing characteristic of the novel;...
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Dialogism and the Bakhtinian Adventure Plot in Melville's the Confidence-Man
Herman Melville's polyphonic narratives culminate in The Confidence-Man, the novel in which his use of multi-voiced discourse reaches its fullest expression. Essential to this polyphonic discourse is Melville's deployment of what Bakhtin called the...
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Who's Speaking Here? Melville and Bakhtin's Dialogism
The becoming-orthodox of sociological and historical approaches to literary studies in the last fifteen to twenty years has, among other things, reordered the pantheon of literary-theoretical figures, among whom Mikhail Bakhtin is now, deservedly,...
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Secretary's Report
It's a frigid Minnesota January morning as I launch into my second executive secretary's report. In the face of a minus 33 degree windchill, I feel the good Melville Society business and pleasure of 2004, here and now, very much like a "warm spark...
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Five More Years
It scarcely seems possible, but three years have passed since the Melville Society Cultural Project was affiliated with the New Bedford Whaling Museum. This affiliation will be renewed shortly under a five-year, rather than the previous three-year...
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William Reese Donation
William Reese, the New Haven book dealer and Melville collector, has donated forty-four prints from Herman Melville's collection of art to the Melville Society Archive in New Bedford. Numerically, these prints comprise one tenth of the four hundred...
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No. 127, July

Ala 2004-San Francisco, CA Re-Reading Redburn and White-Jacket
No writer ever put the reality before his reader more unflinchingly than he does in Redburn and White-Jacket." So wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne to Evert Duyckinck in late August of 1850, following Hawthorne's historic first encounter with Melville earlier...
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"Without Hope of Any Permanent Relief": Urban Poverty in Melville's Redburn
In a letter to his father-in-law, Lemuel Shaw, Melville dismissed Redburn, along with White-Jacket, as one of two "jobs, which I have done for money-being forced to it, as other men are to sawing wood" (Correspondence, 138). He undertook this job-work...
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Redburn's "Prosy Old Guidebook" Revisited (in PowerPoint)
Chapter 30 of Melville's fourth book Redburn (1849), in which the matured Wellingborough Redburn meditates on his dead father's old copy of The Picture of Liverpool; or Stranger's Guide, forecasts a number of important themes and rhetorical practices...
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White-Jacket after the Millennium: Reading Melville's Novel in Time of War
Herman Melville begins Chapter 68 of White-Jacket with the questions, "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...
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Charles Olson and the Northwestern-Newberry Moby-Dick
Melville scholars," writes Dennis Berthold, "widely regard Olson as eccentric." (1) I do not intend to dispute that judgment, but the matter has gone beyond eccentricity. In 1988 complaints about Olson's behavior graduated from colloquial myth into...
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John Rumrill and Herman Melville: Deserters in the South Pacific
John Rumrill and Herman Melville had a good deal in common. Both were in their early twenties when they shipped from New Bedford harbor on whaleships in the 1840s; both jumped ship in the Marquesas Islands about halfway through their voyages; and both...
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Melville Society Cultural Project
The MSCP has had a busy and productive spring of meetings, lectures, and the arrival of our first international scholar at the Melville Archive. The meetings, taking place around the eighth annual Moby-Dick Marathon on January 3 and 4, concentrated...
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Melville Chapin
Melville Chapin, great-grandson of Herman L Melville, died in Boston on March 9, 2004, at age 85. As the obituary in the Boston Globe noted, he was an English major from Yale with a law degree from Harvard who "had practiced law for 61 years." In addition...
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Thomas Harold Wendel
Tom Wendel was a walking Ode to Joy, a big Beethoven of a man who loved Melville and music. A lifelong opera buff, Tom played piano and harpsichord as much to discover music's inner harmonies as to perform every note with such energy and excitement...
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No. 126, February

Why Harpers "Prevented" Publication of the Isle of the Cross-One Possible Explanation
The second volume of Hershel Parker's monumental biography of Herman Melville includes much information on Melville's "lost" work, The Isle of the Cross. On a visit to Nantucket in 1852, Melville was intrigued by a story he heard there. The storyteller...
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MLA 2003-San Diego New Views on Pierre
An enthusiastic, standing-room-only crowd of San Diego MLA-ers attended the Melville Society's roundtable on Pierre. The panelists gave ten-minute presentations of their topics, leaving approximately thirty minutes for a wide-ranging discussion of...
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The Secretary's Report
With eager pleasure and some trepidation, I launch into the first Executive Secretary's Report of my three-year tenure, checking the mirror from time to time for a certain semi-visible steam rising from my head, that curious involuted undulation that...
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All Astir
The Melville Society Cultural Project is thriving. After two years of affiliation with the New Bedford Whaling Museum and its Kendall Institute, great progress has been made. As discussed in Jill Barnum's "Chowder" report, three lecture series are...
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Cook(e)'s Toe in Typee
A tall tale in Chapter 32 of Typee about the fate of Captain James Cook's toe may be indebted to a suitably weird contemporary anecdote involving celebrated British actors Edmund Kean (1789-1833) and his predecessor in Shakespearian histrionics, George...
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The Wanderer
Call him Sterling. Sterling Hayden. It is the name he chose for himself, confronted with "the flux of circumstance and the chaos of his own being," as Howard Vincent describes Ishmael in the Trying-Out of Moby-Dick. (1) His seven children and I (son-in-law)...
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No. 125, July

The Wellington Statue in Horsford's Journals: A Correction
Howard Horsford's Northwestern-Newberry edition of Melville's journals ranks with Jay Leyda's Log as one of the finest reference works on Melville. (1) Its detailed notes, helpful cross-references, thorough index, and numerous maps and illustrations...
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Melville Society Cultural Project: Spring 2003
This year inaugurated the Melville Society Cultural Project's first season of programming in New Bedford and saw new developments in its efforts to establish the Melville Archive at the Kendall Institute, to create a brochure advertising its aims,...
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"Cetology," Ethnology, and the Kingdom of Whales: Countercultural Critique of the Types of Mankind in Moby-Dick
The "Cetology" chapter in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick critiques and subverts the intentions of ethnological "science," evidenced in tracts like Josiah Nott's, The Types of Mainland. Types offers a catalogue and hierarchy of human races, and develops...
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Reconstruction Politics in Battle-Pieces: Sherlock Holmes Meets the Ancient Mariner
In a section of Battle-Pieces devoted to post-War reflections, Melville misplaces a "battle-piece" poem. "A Scout Toward Aldie" narrates the ambush by Partisan Raiders under Colonel John Mosby of a Northern cavalry scouting party in Virginia. In this...
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Another Pioneer Has Gone
Brookfield [Missouri] Gazette, Nov. 23, 1901 Richard M. Hair, another pioneer of Brookfield to whom the death Summons came last Sunday, was a native of western New York, born Oct. 2, 1843. He came to Missouri in 1866, stopping at St. Catherine where...
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Richard Melville Hair and His Spoon
The two letters from Herman Melville's old shipmate from the United States, Oliver Russ, requesting a "keepsake" for his son, Herman Melville Russ, seem to have inspired Melville to sent keepsakes as well to the son and nephew of his old Acushnet companion...
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February

MLA 2002-New York City Is Life Worth Living? (Abstracts)
In The Will to Believe, William James includes an essay called "Is Life Worth Living?" James provides a straightforward, pragmatic answer to this question. On this same topic, what does Melville think? At the heart of Melville is a melancholy-breeding...
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Second Meeting of the Melville Society Cultural Project Team: New Bedford, September 2002. (Allastir)
Working in various venues, with various key partners, and at various tasks throughout the weekend of September 13-14, the Melville Society Cultural Project Transition Team moved considerably closer toward achieving a Melville presence in New Bedford...
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Treasurer's Report
1. Cultural Project The big news for 2002 was the launching of the Cultural Project, our affiliation with the New Bedford Whaling Museum and Kendall Institute. Generous kick-off contributions of $13,048 were complemented by contributions of $5,120...
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July

Wrestling with the Angel: Battle-Pieces as a Crucible for American Romantic Values
I wish to respond to the question "Why is Melville a good poet?" not from the point of view of a Melville specialist but from that of an American literature generalist. Scholars who think in terms of "continuities" have a difficult time in explaining...
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Later and Last: Time and Lyric Moment in Melville's Battle-Pieces
In Battle-Pieces and Aspects of War, Melville foregrounds the journalistic sources he relies on. The title "Aspects of War" underlines the mediation of the speaker's perspective by suggesting that he will consider a variety of aspects or viewpoints,...
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Melville Transition Team Visits New Bedford. (All Astir)
As Chris Sten announced in his February 2002 "Secretary's Report," our Society membership voted "overwhelmingly" in favor of last November's referendum to affiliate with the Old Dartmouth Historical Society and the New Bedford Whaling Museum/Kendall...
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"Call Me Sal, Jack": Visions of Ishmael in Kerouac's 'On the Road'
Moby-Dick can be viewed as the ur-Beat novel for On the Road. Over one hundred years before Kerouac popular the term "Beat, Melville's narrators in Typee, Omoo, Mardi and Moby-Dick, are all rover-bohemians, or as Kerouac might call them, "Dharma...
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The Trial and Execution of the Mannings
Herman Melville recorded in his travel journal (1) that on the afternoon of November 12, 1849, he had felt homesick and unhappy as he listened to the chanting in the choir of St. Paul's in London. His spirits rallied, however, as he walked "down...
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Herman Melville, Realist Poet
Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in Melville's poetry, mostly centering, on the question of whether or not his poems are actually"good." William Spengemann and I engaged in a debate on the subject in the Spring/Summer 2000 issue of...
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February

"In the Beginning Was the Word ..." Whale "... the Letter H ..." (1)
Call me Ishmael." Despite a popular impression that these three words open Moby-Dick, Melville's great sea story actually first presents itself as an extended dictionary entry. Consider: following such obligatory preliminaries as title page, dedication...
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Roses of a New Bedford Summer
Herman Melville wrote in chapter 6 of Moby-Dick that "The women of New Bedford, they bloom like their own red roses." The women of the New Bedford 2001 summer contributed a fine rose garden that continues to flourish into the millennium winter. Notable...
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NEH Summer Institute, July 2-28, 2001. (GAM)
Melville and Multiculturalism," a joint project of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and the Melville Society, was attended by twenty-four high school teachers and one first grade teacher. The participants included...
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Moby-Dick 2001: An Interdisciplinary Conference -- in Retrospect
A little over 110 years after Herman Melville died in New York City late in September 1891, more than two hundred of his devoted readers assembled on the well-landscaped campus of Hofstra University to pay homage to him and commemorate the 150th anniversary...
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Melville's Last, Grave Joke?
When Herman Melville died in 1891, he was buffed in a plot in Woodlawn Cemetery in New York, next to the spot where his son Malcolm had been buffed following his suicide in 1867 at the age of 18. Melville's wife, Elizabeth Shaw Melville, joined them...
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Philanthropic Taste: Race and Character in Melville's the Confidence Man. (Abstracts)
Herman Melville's novel The Confidence-Man certainly reads like a warning, and the chilling story of the genocidal Indian-hater, Colonel John Moredock, certainly seems its most hyperbolic moment. But while the Indian-hater story, on its surface, warns...
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The Secretary's Report. (Chowder)
In a year that will be forever defined by the atrocities of 9/11, it seemed for a while improbable that 2001 could bring any good news or cause for celebration. Yet, remarkably, the year brought an abundance of both, only to end with more sadness in...
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The Treasurer's Report
xxx New Developments: As the Melville Gallery becomes a reality, members have begun donating funds to support it. We received our first donation of $100 in October. We made a significant contribution to support the publication of our volume of...
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The Romantic Architecture of Melville
The Shelleyan Sub-Text of Moby-Dick In his first book, The Romantic Architecture of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Shawn Thomson undertakes to read Melville's novel as an expression and extension of the Romantic imagination, in particular of Shelley's...
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Frank Lentricchia, Lucchesi and the Whale. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001
Lucchesi and the Whale is the third book of fiction by the apostate literary critic Frank Lentricchia, who made the transition from academic criticism to creative writing in a 1994 memoir titled The Edge of Night. He followed that up with two short...
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