Thursday, April 7, 2011

Option 2 Jefferson-Melville?

As an option I’m looking at two ideas that are similar, but I feel I need to chose one and roll with it. The first would be a revision of my last revision Melville the founding father. Your comments suggest a topic that I feel pretty interested in and in my revision it was my main emphasis in one paragraph; the comparison of Herman Melville and Thomas Jefferson. I consider them both as similar in many ways like time in history, slavery impact, and boarder line deists. These are some big time similarities in some big time categories that I think would make an interesting final project. I also admire both men and have a look of information on both. The question if Jefferson and Melville are similar leads me to my thesis. This is good because I have a clear goal and reason. The other idea I’m tossing around is comparing the Golden Age in American Literature (Emerson, Melville, Whitman, Thoreau, and Hawthorne) we talked about in class and the Founding Fathers (Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin, Washington). I’m afraid this topic is too broad and can have so much information on it and I will lose focus in my paper. I wanted to know what you thought about this. I would say compare them on theologies, impact in history, and popularity. One of my many points would be that at of these two groups I feel that the Founding Fathers are way more celebrated and main streamed while not enough is said about the Golden Age. A counter-argument could be that the Founding Fathers are on their own level and cannot be compared with.

Browne, Ray B. Melville’s Drive to Humanism. Purdue Research Foundation. 1971.
-If I do the Melville vs. Jefferson this source will play a big role. It has a good summary of Melville’s thoughts about religion and other important topics.

Capper, Charles and Hollinger, David A. The American Intellectual Tradition. Oxford University Press. 2011.
-This book contains written documents by many Founding Fathers and I would use for either option. If I use the Golden Age vs. Founding Fathers one then I plan to use quotes from the Constitution and other documents to show the Founding Fathers thought process in composing such documents.

Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick. Penguin Books. 2003.
-Clearly in Melville Jefferson comparison I will reference Moby-Dick several times because it is the best way I can explain his views.

Miller, Perry R. The Golden Age of American Literature. New York. 1959.
-A book that is focused on the Golden Age itself and is where I would learn a lot of my information about these authors since we only talked about them for a short time.

Weimer, David R. Anxiety in The Golden Day of Lewis Mumford. The New England Quarterly. Vol. 36. June, 1963.
-Article with a lot of information on the Golden Age increasing my knowledge on the subject and giving me a second reference on a topic I don’t know much about going into the process.

Kramnick, Isaac and Moore, Laurence R. The Godless Constitution. Norton and Company. New York. 2005.
-Will be used in either option. Is full of information talking about the Founding fathers and their beliefs. Has some solid stuff about Jefferson that I think is super interesting and would really help my option focused on Jefferson.

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. Random House. 1952.
-The Golden Age was referenced so much in it, it would only be right if I referenced it at least once if I wrote my paper about the golden age.

Kermode, Frank. the Genesis of Secrecy. Harvard University Press. 1979.
-I would use this to explain the interpretations of different texts like Moby-Dick, the Constitution, and possibly the Bible.

I see myself using Kermode as a way of explanation. He describes the differences between carnal and spiritual readings very well in his first chapter. Also, in this chapter is a list of six somewhat rules for interpreting. This can come in handy when trying to explain what Jefferson and the fathers were trying to say in the first amendment and what Melville was up to in some parts of Moby-Dick. See for my comparison of Jefferson and Melville I can add that it can be argued that they wrote two of the most debated about written works in America; the First Amendment and Moby-Dick. Kermode goes into his rules with the use of his example, Party Going. Topics like outsiders and insiders, lack of interpretations and, the larger whole, among others will be used by me in spots to explain maybe why there are counterarguments. Like in the First Amendment some people interpret it as, in others words saying, there is freedom of religion in America while others look past it and consider America a Christian nation.

Pending on what you say I think the Jefferson Melville option is the way to go for me and it would be a revision of the earlier stated Melville the Founding Father. This was interestingly enough a revision of Christian or else. I feel that in the first revision I made strides in the right direction. Actually, I don’t know if this would be considered a revision because just one paragraph was about Jefferson and now it has branched into a new paper possibly. The only thing I would keep is that one paragraph and even that is just going to be a starting point and probably won’t make its way directly into the final project if this topic is done. Maybe, I could use the Father Maple quote/example to prove a point. I’m think that it shows some deist thoughts hidden under the carnal reading, but don’t worry I would explain the carnal reading first with Kermode’s help. I may need to do some more research to see if I could find a scholarly article about these two together or maybe Melville as a politician to clear up some lose ends but I’m pretty confident I could do so.

1 comment:

  1. This is a thoughtful and detailed proposal. You're laying out fairly rough ideas, but they're all ideas worth pursuing. Since I like everything here, but I also think even the more focused ideas are still too broad, I'm going to mostly try to think about ways to narrow your focus.

    First, I think the more obvious approach (simply because it's already more focused) is the discussion about Jefferson and Melville. Both authors are themselves big topics, though, and I'd suggested that you begin with one area of common interest to both, maybe alluding to some of the others as you go.

    Some connections: deism (I like this one, but then, I would; I'd maybe look at Jefferson's book on the new testament, which I've never read, but seems like a strong starting point); slavery (you'd want to research Melville's relationship with Justice Shaw, and Shaw's role in the enforcement of the fugitive slave act - any Melville biography should cover it); American expansionism (with Jefferson obviously being an advocate/enabler, and Melville being, I would argue, an important skeptic); techno-criticism (that is, questioning the role of technology in American life).

    In other words: I think pursue Melville-Jefferson connections or parallelism is great, but would need to be more focused; Jefferson's writings should help a lot there.

    As far as the golden age/day vs. founding fathers idea. Here's the way I'd do it: I'd start with how the authors of the "golden age/ golden day" (maybe just Melville? That seems reasonable to me) conceptualized the founding fathers. I would *strongly* recommend that you start by reading Melville's novel *Israel Potter*, which is set during the American revolution and has historical figures like Benjamin Franklin and John Paul Jones as characters within it.

    So you could start out with the question: how did Melville, as a representative of the "golden age" of American literature, conceptualize the revolution and the founding fathers? Answering that question, using some set of texts of that era as a counterpoint (I'd consider Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, but I'm not an expert on the period), could provide a great argument.

    I think your choices of texts are all reasonable, and your scattered thoughts about the deism argument make a case in favor of exploring the deism of Jefferson and Melville.