Saturday, April 9, 2011

Final Paper Proposal

Final Paper Proposal

I would like to use the final paper as an opportunity to revise my two essays about the relationship between Elijah and Ahab. The first was focuses more on using Marcuse to read Ahab’s authoritarian rule of the ship, while the second focused mainly on their biblical role, but didn’t present any challenges to the sources. I would like to merge these in a way that presents discussion of the contrast between the two characters in terms of Marcuse and simultaneously extends to their biblical role. This time I will try to challenge the arguments in the two sources I used in the revision of the original essay. The two essays both discuss the biblical relationship between Elijah and Ahab, but each focuses heavily upon only one of the two. They thus demonstrate different interpretations of their roles. I will discuss what sort of complications this could create when trying to use the works together.

My argument is going to stay similar to the arguments of the two papers past. When examined with biblical references—in which Elijah is the prophet who prophesizes Ahab’s death — Elijah’s brief appearances in Moby Dick serve as reflection upon the evil and demise that enduring, blind worship produces. I’m trying to work on the wording a bit more here so that it’s clearer and more to-the-point but basically I want to use all of the work I’ve done to start discussion in a way that sort of brings us back to Melville’s intention by deliberately choosing these two characters in such similar roles that they play in the bible. There is a definite lack of discourse about Elijah’s role, so any argument pertaining to him has some significance simply because it doesn’t receive as much attention — which I think it should.

Work Cited

Glover, Neil. “Elijah versus the Narrative of Elijah.”

Kermode. The Genesis of Secrecy.

Marcuse. One-Dimensional Man.

Myers, Henry A. “Captain Ahab’s Discovery: The Tragic Meaning of Moby Dick.” The New England Quarterly 15.1 (1942): 15-34. **The age of this article warrants dicussion of the contemporary vs. aged interpretations of the text. If we are continuously basing our interpretations off others’ interpretations, how has this text’s topics of discussion been relevant to the evolving discussion of the meaning of the novel?

Waldman, Nahum M. “Ahab in Bible and Talmud.”

I want to bring the discussion back to that idea of lies and deceitful language which I started to scratch at in the first essay. This time, I will use that to actually analyze the passages I’ve selected. I was wondering — and hope you could give me some feedback — whether I should also analyze the sources I’m using in terms of language, or if that would be going too far with it without supporting my paper. In addition, I will also analyze Elijah’s language; he is ambiguous and insinuates but never explicitly states; why? What function does the ambiguity serve?

I also wanted to discuss briefly why Ahab’s wife has no presence in the novel, because she seems to have more biblical significance and is responsible for the king’s viciousness. So why would she be ignored in Melville’s text. Perhaps the power of the whale is itself enough to control the captain and condemn him to his dark worshipping.

I want to talk about Kermode; Melville was infusing biblical interpretation into his writing, which we as readers now interpret. How does his interpretation affect its meaning in the story. Here I will go back to the actual bible and take passages to use comparatively. Henry Alonzo Myers’ article “Captain Ahab’s Discovery: The Tragic Meaning of Moby Dick” brings discussion to a carnal reading of the novel. He insists that all of the symbols and allegories throughout the book are not meant to evoke profound meaning, but simply to tell the story of the tragic battle between good and evil, tragic because one cannot exist without the other and thus the battle cannot be won. I think the article relates interestingly to Kermode because of his method of interpretation. While I am arguing for the significance of the allegory of Elijah, yet Myers diminishes the value of that allegory as anything besides a fictional tool.

I plan to start out with my own carnal reading of the basic story of Elijah’s appearances and how they affected Ishmael at the time. From here I will move to the carnal captain Ahab and fix upon his characterization as the captain. For these carnal readings I will use Marcuse to analyze the language and what this means, i.e. what was Melville trying to accomplish with these characters by using deceitful or ambiguous language? Then I will begin introducing the outside readings, beginning with the biblical functions of Elijah and Ahab — which I mostly wrote about for the last revision — using both articles and the actual bible. I will incorporate Kermode here in the act of interpretation and Melville’s interpretation and redrafting. Is the allegory a midrash of the biblical story? Is that why Ahab’s wife is ignored (and consequently the role of Moby Dick heightened)? Here I will bring in the Myer’s reading to show an opposing view which negates its significance and return back to the carnal reading to reaffirm the foundations of the argument.


  1. To answer your specific question: analyzing the language or rhetoric of your sources is certainly legitimate, and possibly good, but by no means necessary. It depends on exactly how your argument ends up, but you can't perform a close linguistic analysis of any source you ever read.

    I liked the proposal as a whole, but maybe because it was pretty long, I was struggling a little toward the end, wondering whether you were losing the forest for the trees. I'm interested in everything you're doing here, but I'd feel more secure if you had an actual claim in mind.

    My mood turned again at the end when you asked a couple perceptive questions at the end, re: midrash and Ahab's wife. I think before you do anything else you should read the relevant biblical text carefully, and probably at least one commentary on it (the HarperCollins bible commentary is a good, straightforward one). I think the question about Ahab's wife is a great one (incidentally, there's a novel called *Ahab's Wife* which might interest you). Ahab's wife in the bible is Jezebel, whose name we tend to remember more often than Ahab's - very possibly you might have some thoughts about what Jezebel's absence means once you better understand who she is.

    Then, of course, you need to ask (if Melville is perming a midrash) what that midrash means. Indeed, that's probably what you should be doing - so although I enjoyed the whole proposal, I think that the ending is what you begin with - begin with some good questions, and if you can answer those questions using at least some of your existing material, do so. But don't let your existing work (even though it's good) be a straigtjacket - ask and answer the questions, using some parts of your existing work if you can.

  2. I think you have a good topic and plenty of material to use for your paper. I actually like how you are going to set up your paper with analyzing each individual character first and then looking at language and Melville's interpretation. The questions you ask are very thought provoking and I think your individual points were great but I had a bit of a hard time figuring out what your overall argument would be.