Monday, March 19, 2012

Questions of Melville/Marcuse, Week 3

Post as comments, as usual.


  1. Why does Melville present us with yet another character named after a biblical character prophesizing Ahab and the Pequod’s impending doom? In chapter 71: The Jeroboam’s Story the captain and a crewmate of another ship named The Jeroboam visit the members of the Pequod. The ship’s Captain Mayhew and Gabriel do not board the ship for fear of infecting the members of the Pequod with a disease that has broken out of their ship, one which Gabriel refers to as the “plague.” Gabriel, our latest biblical prophet, attempts to again warn Ahab and his crew against hunting the white whale, not only referring to it as the “Shaker God incarnate” (344) but when Ahab refuses to heed his warning Gabriel exclaims “Think, think of the blasphemer – dead, and down there! – beware of the blasphemers end!” (346). Why does Melville continue to mark Ahab for death using biblical references and characters? By constantly repeating this allusion it makes the foreshadowing almost too blatant and obvious which differs from Melville’s usual ambiguous and mysterious style. Is there something else that Melville is trying to show us with the biblical references other than the fact that Ahab is doomed or is it just that simple.

  2. "But as this managerial mode of thought and research spreads into other dimensions of the intellectual effort, the services which it renders become increasingly separable from its scientific validity. In this context, functionalization has a truly thereputic effect. Once the personal discontent is isolated from the general unhappiness, once the universal concepts which militate against functionalization are dissolved into particular referents, the case becomes a treatable and tractable incident." (Marcuse, 111)

    I was hoping that the longer we read Marcuse, the easier it would be to understand, but unfortunately, I am still having a difficult time completely grasping what Marcuse is telling the reader and what his motivations behind it are. However, I continue to find myself puzzled and rereading sections, this one I found particularly puzzling. The above quote comes from a section in the text detailing the apparent manipulation that businesses engage in when dealing with employee lawsuits and complaints. My understanding of the reading is, and I may be wrong, that instead of one person being in uniquely bad situation, it appears that company's generalize their complaints, and by making them universal, make them worthless in a sense. Is Marcuse suggesting that Universal complaints do not have merit because everyone goes through them? And the "therapeutic" aspect that he refers to the above quote, does this generalization become therapeutic to whom exactly? To the person with the grievance? Or rather to the people who treat the grievance? Is Marcuse suggesting that the way in which to deal with these grievances best is to instead of generalizing them, is to particularize them, which accounts for the "therapeutic effect"?

  3. It is hard for me to think about “One-Dimensional Man” fairly when I firmly believe that I am as free as any government would allow me to be. Yet even when I say this I immediately realize this is not true, I cannot simply take off my clothes on a hot day, drink when I want to, or sleep outside one night without proper license if at all. I realize there are restrictions on my behavior and these restrictions may not have always been around in every or all societies but I take these to be the least evil of possible restrictions and thus accept them. I would argue Herbert Marcuse’s belief in the modern “double-speek” of Orwell (Marcuse, 88) yet I guess in my first statement I may have proved him right because when I think of free I think of America “the home of the free and the brave”. But as I am also willing to realize the restrictions of our freedom in America I would also claim the indoctrination of language is incomplete, that it may affect us in our most surface thoughts but with any thought on our part we realize our self-deception and can move on. Marcuse may portray this as accepting the contradiction and revolution in society to deny real counter culture and society but I think this is a sign of acceptance and growth versus control and a sign that we can survive and grow without overarching revolution. Of course maybe society would grow more with constant conflicts but I have not been taught “War is peace” and would prefer slow peaceful change to bloody revolution.

  4. "Meantime, Fedallah was calmly eyeing the right whale's head, and ever and anon glancing from the deep wrinkles there to the lines in his own hand. And Ahab chanced so to stand, that the Parsee occupied his shadow; while, if the Parsee's shadow was there at all it seemed only to blend with, and lengthen Ahab's. As the crew toiled on, Laplandish speculations were bandied among them, concerning all these passing things" (Melville, 358).

    My question is a rather simple one, what exactly are we supposed to deduce from this quote? What is the significance of Fedallah standing in Ahab's shadow? Not only does he stand in Ahab's shadow, he lengthens it. I am sure there is some significance to this event, but I am unable to entirely grasp what this significance is. This quote seems to be suggesting that Ahab and Fedallah have a very deep, intertwining relationship, but the broader significance of this quote seems to escape my understanding. For example, what effect does the relationship between Ahab and Fedallah have on the rest of the crew? What exactly is the speculation mentioned in the quote?