Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Final Paper Proposal

Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man. Beacon, 1991.
I will use Marcuse’s idea of art reflecting reason generally to apply to Moby-Dick as a rational form of expression of evolution.
Melville, Herman. Moby-Dick. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2003.
I will take the majority of material from Moby-Dick.  I will look at specific passages on the description of the whale’s tail, the comparison between the right whale and the sperm whale, the purpose of blubber,
Weiner, Jonathan. The Beak of the Finch. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.
The Beak of the Finch is a book about going back at a present time and observing the process of evolution in the Finches that Darwin first observed.  I will use this to look at their interpretation of how Darwin came to the conclusion of evolution.
Young, David. The Discovery of Evolution. Cambridge:University Press, 2007.
The Discovery of Evolution does a strong job of describing the theories of evolution and the context leading up to its discovery.  I will use this piece to provide context information on Linnaeus, and Lyell especially and then further information on Darwin.

2. My argument for the final project will be that Moby-Dick should be considered a relevant early work in the field of evolution.  I will argue that Melville influenced by the same scientists as Darwin created a prophetic piece leading up to On the Origin of Species.  I will do this through analyzing the way in which  Melville describes the form and function of whales and the attempts to classify them. This is an appropriate way to approach the relevance of evolution as it mirrors the way in which evolution was first realized by Darwin. 

I think that this is a relevant in considering Moby-Dick as it is a way to incorporate the numerous chapters dealing with the shape and description of whales.  A think that a good understanding of Moby-Dick requires the inclusion of these passages in the analysis and I think that considering them from an evolutionary perspective brings a greater understanding and a deeper way to appreciate the text.  I believe that it is very important to consider the scientific context of the understanding of species at the time, as I think was very relevant and important to Melville and should be to the reader too.

3.   I will incorporate Marcuse into the argument of evolution by examining what he says about art being equivalent to reason.  I think that this ties in well with the novel of Moby-Dick being looked at as a piece of rationality and reason as well as it is considered the first great American novel.  Yet I may acknowledge the fact that even though there is reason in Moby-Dick concerning the classification of species, that it hasn’t been historically considered an evolutionary text –meaning that society has not adopted the reason present.

4. My argument for my final project will relate to my last revision which was about evolution in Moby-Dick.  As I was working on my revision, I realized both that I am really fascinated by the topic and that there is a lot more to cover than I originally had in mind.  With that in mind, I think that I need to work on coming up with a clear focus and organization around that topic in order to improve for the final paper.  I think that what I need to do is focus more on the description and classification of whales rather than including religion into the argument.  I would like to still incorporate Linnaeus and Darwin and speak more to Lyell as well and the chapter on fossils.


  1. I had never thought of the chapters in Moby-Dick in regards to Darwin but the points you have explored and wish to elaborate on seem very interesting. With Marcuse are you arguing that evolution is an "art" that had a reason? I am not arguing intelligent design here (I subscribe to evolution) but rather is evolution just random change or a more thought out process, as much as Nature can think? Melville at the forefront of evolutionary thought is interesting and I am not sure exactly of what it could add but would it be worth looking into Darwin's text itself? I haven't read any of his research personally but there would likely be some overlap between the two.

  2. Obviously, I'm on board with this. The topic interests me a lot, and even when I object to certain things you've done, I'm on board with your approach, as well. The biggest challenge is restricting the topic enough to cover it well; you can't cover the whole history of evolution, and you can't cover all of *Moby-Dick* easily, either.

    If I were you, and I had a little bit of time, I'd look over some of Darwin's writing, especially *The Voyage of the Beagle*. Maybe it's just my opinion, but I think that understanding just how literary Darwin was, in conjunction with how scientific Melville was, can help in articulating how, in the 19th century especially, there was nothing crazy about doing a scientific-literary or literary-scientific work.

    I'd also suggest doing a search in the MLA database for essays which contain both Melville and Darwin. There should be a handful - some of them aren't bad. If you have trouble, let me know, and I'll dig through my stuff for some of the relevant articles. Reading them could help you focus on *your* unique contribution, instead of having to feel like you need to do everything.