Monday, March 14, 2011

Assignment for Moby-Dick, 4th Week

Option 1: We've spent a great deal of time and effort in class stepping through the resonance of particular symbols (for instance, the pyramid). Now it's your turn. Pick one term, which seems to you to carry a heavy symbolic weight. Examples include "phantom," "candle", "Zoroaster," etc. Use an etext to search for all occurences of your term. You don't need to write about every single one, but you do need to at look through all of them in order to argue what we can/should read differently when paying careful attention to this one term throughout the book.

Option 2: Answer this question (using an argument, citations, etc.): what is the significance of Pip's speech to Queequeg?

Option 3 (yes, this is a repeat. It worked well once, so here it is again): Perhaps using my discussion of Typee or the Book of Jonah as a model, or perhaps ranging a little farther afield, everyone should do some additional Melville-related reading. If you're reading an academic book, read a chapter or two. A full length academic essay (say, 15-20 pages) is also fine. If you're reading a biography, 20-40 pages. Or, you might read an extended selection from one of Melville's other works (not including "Benito Cereno" or "Bartleby the Scrivener") - say, roughly 40 pages.
What you're doing is summarizing some relevant argument or moment from your chosen text, and then exploring how that text can help us understand Moby-Dick. If you're using an academic article (or excerpt from the book), use (or challenge) its argument. If you're using a biography, show us some way in which knowing something about Melville's life illuminates his work. If you're reading one of his other works of fiction or poetry, put it to work (as I did with the excerpt from Typee).

In any case, you must apply some particular, cited passage from your chosen work to help understand a particular, cited passage from Moby-Dick, with no exceptions.

What Sources are Valid?

Any academic essay of at least fifteen pages in length, which you will find in our library using the MLA index. Hopefully this link will work, although you'll need to log in using your Pitt Id: MLA.

Any academic work (biography or criticism) on Herman Melville. An easy start is, then click on "search," change from a "title" search to a "subject heading" search, and enter Melville, Herman. If you want a biography, don't use one older than 20 years. Most people like Herschel Parker's. Personally, I like like the one by Laurie Robertson-Lorant. There are other good ones, too.

Any of Melville's other fiction or poetry. I suggest Typee, Omoo, or White-Jacket as the easiest to apply - but anything is fair game. If you're really lazy, you can use the Gutenberg etexts. If you do, link to the text whenever you cite it, and I'll search for the exact passage if I want (read about a quarter or a fifth of the whole for the first two, or half that for White-Jacket, since you won't have a page count). Cut and paste to be sure your spelling is correct. If you can't figure out how to do links - too bad. Go to the library instead.

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