Saturday, April 9, 2011

Final Essay: Melville's Symbolism through Politcs

For my final project, I want to expand on my last revision, which explored the interpretation of Moby-Dick and the limits to which it can and should be interpreted. I have been compiling a number of different articles about how different authors interpret Moby-Dick—many of these articles are very long and complex, and I was not able to critique them to the fullest due to size restrictions in the past drafts. In the revision, I really took a lot away from your evaluation on the first draft (mainly your advice on the 9/11 article and the incorporation of Melville in politics). After reading your evaluation on the revision, it really inundated my mind with possible directions for a final draft. What particularly stood out was your advice on adding a counterargument dealing with how Moby-Dick can easily be read in a conservative way, which is probably the opposite of how Melville would have wanted it to be read. I also want to add my own opinions on American symbolism in Moby Dick and add more to my conclusion with Ishmael, which now seems like it was a little tacked on.

My argument will stay primarily similar to my past argument: using articles of critics and a biography of Melville and his political involvement, I will examine the range of people’s interpretations of Moby-Dick and its characters and see if there is a limit to how Moby-Dick can be interpreted. As a counterargument, I will try to scrutinize the possibility of viewing Moby-Dick in ways that Melville would not want it to be seen as, and in doing so, counter the fact that Melville’s political involvement characterized the way his novel can be viewed. I believe this can have great significance to a reader that has read Moby-Dick, as it can help explain that it does not have a definitive way of being interpreted, but does have limits to how it should be read.

As you pointed out in the revision, I indirectly used Kermodian ideas to help stimulate my thinking process. Since Kermode basically calls his book an interpretation of interpretations, it undoubtedly fits the point of this essay much more than Marcuse, especially the first and third chapters. Chapter one focuses on the Carnal and Spiritual ways of reading a book; this can be greatly integrated in my argument by criticizing certain articles—ones that do not consider the spiritual and complex roles of the characters and merely interprets them through the carnal stereotypes of their actions. The third chapter focuses on the human need to come to one singular logical interpretation, and since Moby-Dick does not offer one, it either leads people to negatively criticize it or make up a meaning that suits their understanding.

Since I am revising an earlier draft, I will need to delete some of the past work in order to go into another direction. What I am struggling with the most is whether to keep the portion of Ishmael as “all of the readers” and add a paragraph or two about its significance and clarification of what aspects in particular relate to the average reader (as we all clearly don’t sleep with cannibals).

For my bibliography, I will incorporate current magazine articles, critical essays, and “The Genesis of Secrecy”. Here’s the list:

Bergen: this is the magazine article that I used in the introduction of my revision. In it, I vaguely criticized it for not delving deep enough into the novel before using it as a metaphor for America and Al Qaeda. In the final draft, I want to incorporate Kermode’s Carnal/Spiritual argument to back up my claims.

Donoghue: I used this article as the main piece of research in my first draft and only used it for examples in the revision. The problem is that this is a very long and complicated article that deserves much more analysis. With that said, I only want to incorporate one new source to the final project and emphasize the many different points that I overlooked in this article. I am sure it will lead to as many new elements that any new article could.

Heimert: This article was the main focus of the revision. I am still unsure if I want to make it the prime focus of the final revision, but at its lowest, I will still use it to make the point of the limitations that Melville set for the novel.

Kermode: As mentioned above, I will use extracts from chapter 1 and 3 of his work.

Nicholls: This new article, called “Melville and Politics” shows a much more in-depth look at Melville’s involvement in politics and, like Heimert, gives examples of how he assimilated points in his books to work as metaphors for these ideas.

Bergen, Peter. "The Long Hunt for Osama - Magazine - The Atlantic." The Atlantic — News and Analysis on Politics, Business, Culture, Technology, National, International, and Life – Web. 01 Apr. 2011. .

Donoghue, Denis. "Moby-Dick After September 11th." Law and Literature 15.2 (2003): 161-88. Print.

Heimert, Alan. "Moby-Dick and American Political Symbolism." Http:// Web.

Kermode, Frank. The Genesis of Secrecy: on the Interpretation of Narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1979. Print.

Nicholls, Peter. "Melville and Politics." Journal of American Studies 21.01 (1987): 95. Print.

1 comment:

  1. Your previous draft was genuinely good. What you're proposing here is not a rewrite, nor does it have to be - you have a strong base, and plenty of room to expand upon that strong base.

    That being said, I don't have a ton to say, let alone criticize, in this proposal. I do think that an ideal version of this essay would be able to address, if only partially (it's a demanding topic!) to question of the limits of interpretation.

    Purely speculatively, I think one way you could handle the "limit" issue is by identifying an article which pushes too far, and another which doesn't go quite far enough - and figuring out where in the middle you think the balance is (probably on something to do with Ahab himself).

    Your choice of essays is great, and whichever one you focus on, I'm sure it'll work out; I also think that involving Melville's own politics, especially as the root of a counterargument, is likely to be productive.

    I'll just stop writing - I think the approach is both legitimate and good. I