|PS's introductory lecture outline notes, on Melville and on Ishmael|
|Moby-Dick (1851): the early works (esp. Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life) were best-sellers and made the author famous. But Moby-Dick received mixed reviews (some praise, with one calling the book the authors best, but there were many expressions of exasperation and one suggested the author had gone insane). Only 2,300 copies sold: yet Melville needed to sell books to support his family. From a later (1904) assessment of Moby-Dick, although it judged the book as Melvilles best and overall a very noble piece: the reader ... is harassed by the frequent interpolation of a transcendental mysticism which often ill-fits the mouths of the rough tarpaulins, who are made to deliver their minds of the sublimated fancies which appear to oppress them even more than the brine-hardened food they consume. (Norton Critical Edition, pp. 624-25).
M. revising his conception of Moby-Dick after a first draft: after he read more deeply a collection of Hawthornes short stories called Mosses from Old Manse. What little we can tell from letters etc. (full manuscript versions of early vs late drafts not available): Beyond a whaling chronicle: heightening his investigation of the industry of whaling, the whole system & enterprise; greatly increasing the role of Ishmael and esp. Ahab. From a first-person narrator to a book with Ishmael as nominal narrator but in many different voices, even imitating a Shakespearean play at several points.
from Melvilles letters to Hawthorne in 1851, while he was completing Moby-Dick:
What I feel most moved to write, that is banned,-- it will not pay. Yet, altogether, write the other way I cannot. So the product is a final hash, and all my books are botches.... Im rather sore, perhaps in this letter; but see my hand!--four blisters on the palm, made by hoes and hammers within the last few days....
My development has been all within a few years past. I am like one of those seeds taken out of the Egyptian Pyramids, which, after being three thousand years a seed and othing but a seed, being planted in English soil, it developed itself, grew to greenness, and then fell to mould. So I. Until I was twenty-five, I had no development at all. From my twenty-fifth year I date my life. Three weeks have scarcely passed, at any time between then and now [1851; Melville in his early 30s], that I have not unfolded within myself....
Shall I send you a fin of The Whale [novel] by way of a specimen mouthful? The tail is not yet cooked-- though the hell-fire in which the whole book is broiled might not unreasonably have cooked it all ere this. This is the books motto (the secret one): --Ego non baptiso te in nomine.... [cf. ch 119, The Candles].
|Notes on Ishmael: "survival through style" [Tanner's term]|
|ISHMAEL central principles: improvisation, reciprocity, multiplicity
improvisation and reciprocity
ch 1 Who aint a slave paragraph
indignities of world: from separate to shared; the circle of massaging hands
scales of the New Testament: shifting perspective as survival technique
comedy: reducing worlds violence to a thump
compare later chapters, esp. 72 (Monkey-Rope) and 94 (Squeeze of the Hand)
shift in perspective as comic restitution, recompense: the Pythagorean maxim joke
vs Is humility and sense of humor (newspaper headlines that follow, with Whaling Voyage by One Ishmael in small print
last paragraphs of chapter 1:
seeing free will as an illusion vs Is emphasis on improvisation
Is response: mutuality vs isolation (Isolatoes islands unto themselves): Ishmael and democratic theory
Ishmael and Queequeg and Ishmaels principle of reciprocity
Ishmael and multiplicity (Leviathanism)
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