The Weaver-God, He Weaves: Melville and the Poetics of the Novel


Melville has long been regarded as an author of raw genius who knew, or cared, little about the art of the novel, and even harbored hostility toward its conventions. In The Weaver-God, He Weaves, Christopher Sten sets out to correct this widespread view, showing not only what Melville knew about the novelist's craft but how he appropriated and transformed a whole series of distinct genres: Typee is presented in the context of the popular romance, with its paired themes of sex and violence; Omoo is viewed in the framework of early Spanish and later French examples of the picaresque novel; and Mardi is seen as an instance of the once widely popular genre of the imaginary voyage. Sten also reveals how Melville radically transformed certain existing genres - the epic novel in Moby-Dick and the historical novel in Israel Potter - or forged profound new directions for genres still in their early stages - the psychological novel in Pierre and the experimental novel in The Confidence-Man. Sten speculatesthat it is,because Melville was so idiosyncratic and inventive that so few critics have understood his close relationship to the various novelistic forms.

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