NEWS & EVENTS

 

Moby Dick in Context

M.A. Level
compulsory SSE
elective
elective DSS
Credit value
2-year MA - post-2013, Z+Zk8
2-year MA - pre-2013, Z+Zk10
2-year MA, Z5
Teacher
Martin Procházka
Semester
winter

OBJECTIVES
As one of the last works of American Romanticism and a founding work of modern American literature, Melville's Moby Dick reshapes many romantic themes and techniques. It ironically rewrites romantic myths of nature, sincerity, the poet and poetry as the "spontaneous overflow" of feeling. Moreover, it ruins the illusions of American Transcendentalism, especially the Emersonian belief in the revelations of the Book of Nature, and asks urgent questions about the purpose and limits of American civilization.

MATERIAL
Primary
• Herman Melville, Moby Dick: A Variorum Edition, ed. Harrison Hayford and Hershel Parker
• Herman Melville, Mardi (Ch. 1, 49, 53, 54) http://www.online-literature.com/melville/mardi-vol1/
• Herman Melville, 'Bartleby the Scrivener'
• Herman Melville, 'Hawthorne and his Mosses' (Norton)
• S.T. Coleridge, 'The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner'
• R.W. Emerson, Nature ('Commodity', 'Language', 'Idealism', 'Spirit', 'Prospects')
• R.W. Emerson, 'The American Scholar'
Secondary
• From Moby Dick, ed. Harrison Hayford and Hershel Parker (Primary):
 Warner Berthoff, [Characterization in Moby Dick]
 Charles Olson, 'Ahab and His Fool'
 J.N.Reynolds, 'Mocha Dick' 
 Richard B. Sewall, [Moby Dick as Tragedy]
• Lawrence Buell, 'Moby Dick' as Sacred Text', in Richard Brodhead, ed., New Essays on Moby Dick or the Whale, 53-72            
• Richard Chase, 'Melville and Moby Dick - The Meaning of Moby Dick', in Richard Chase (ed.), Melville: A Collection of Critical Essays, 56-61
• Gilles Deleuze: 'Barleby, or The Formula', in Essays Critical and Clinical, 68-90
• Jacques Derrida, 'Edmond Jabès and the Question of the Book', in Writing and Difference, 64-67, 70-71, 75-77
• Jacques Derrida, 'Whom to Give to (Knowing Not to Know)', in The Gift of Death, 53-81.
• H. Bruce Franklin, 'Moby Dick: An Egyptian Myth Incarnate', in The Wake of the Gods, 53-98
• Emanuel Lévinas, 'The Other as the Other Man', in Séan Hand (ed.) A Levinas Reader, 235-249
• J.-F. Lyotard, 'Of white skin', 'Labyrinth at the Centre', in Andrew Benjamin (ed.), The Lyotard Reader, 59-65
• James E. Miller, Jr., 'Moby Dick: the grand hooded phantom', in A Reader's Guide to Herman Melville, 75-117
• Carolyn Porter, 'Call Me Ishmael, or How to Make Double Talk Speak', in Richard Brodhead, ed., New Essays on Moby Dick or the Whale, 73-108
• Martin Procházka, ' Nature in Moby Dick and Emersonian Transcendentalism', in The Tongue is an Eye:Studies Presented to Libuše Dušková, ed. Jan Čermák, Aleš Klégr, 34-55

Most of the texts on the list will be available in scanned copies in the moodle. The texts in the first section of the list are included in the Hayford-Parker edition of the novel available from the Department Library in a sufficient number of copies. 

NOTE
Basic knowledge of En­glish and American Romanticism, and of literary theory is re­quired.

COURSE TOPICS

I. A Book or a Narrative?
Close reading: Chs. 32 - Cetology, 45 - The Affidavit, and the opening sections 'Etymology', 'Extracts'

Questions to be discussed:

1. Book: a totality of being, or a fragment? A sign (a text of signs), or an object? A presence or an absence of the writer? A sacred or a secular text? Nature or Scripture?

All read: Emerson: Nature - Ch. IV: Language
              Derrida: 'Edmond Jabès and the Question of the Book', in Writing and Difference, pp. 64-67, 70-71, 75-77

2. Moby Dick and Biblical Authority in Protestant America

All read: Larence Buell, 'Moby Dick' as Sacred Text', in: Richard Brodhead, ed., New Essays on Moby Dick or the Whale, pp. 53-72

3. The Relation of 'Extracts' and chapters-essays: thematic groupings.

4. Can the 'Extracts' be read as a narrative?

II. Crossing the Threshold: The Narrator and Narrative Perspective, The Self and the Other
Close reading: Chs. 1-21
                        Mardi Ch. 1

Questions to be discussed:

1. The Identity of the Narrator and the Development of the Narrative

All read: Carolyn Porter, 'Call Me Ishmael, or How to Make Double Talk Speak', in Richard Brodhead, ed., New Essays on Moby Dick or the Whale, pp. 73-108

2. The Other or others? (singularity of otherness)

All read: 'Bartleby the Scrivener'
             Derrida: 'Whom to Give to (Knowing Not to Know)', in: The Gift of Death, pp. 53-81.
             Levinas: 'The Other as the Other Man', in: Levinas Reader
            
Deleuze: 'Bartleby, or The Formula, in: Essays Critical and Clinical

3. The meaning of the narrator's friendship with Queequeg

4. Ishmael and Ahab

All read: William Ellery Sedgwick, [Ismahel vs. Ahab]

III. A Narrative or a Drama? The Structure, Characters, their Groups and Interaction
Close reading: Chs. 26-31, 36-40, 108, 127-132

All read: James E. Miller, Jr.,  'Moby Dick: the grand hooded phantom', in A Reader's Guide to Herman Melville, 75-117
             John Bryant, “Politics, Drama and Melville's 'Shakespeherian Rag'”, in Robert S. Levine(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Herman Melville, 80-90.
             William Shakespeare, Hamlet (especially 5.1), Macbeth, King Lear
            
'Hawthorne and his Mosses'

Questions to be discussed:

1. Narrative and dramatic techniques: their function

2. The characters of Ahab and the seamen

3. Shakespearian allusions in the text and their implications: a different form of tragedy in Moby Dick?

All read: Charles Olson, 'Ahab and His Fool'
              Richard B. Sewall, [Moby Dick as Tragedy]
              Warner Berthoff, [Characterization in Moby Dick]

IV. Late Romanticism of Moby Dick: Relation to Other Works of Romanticism
Close Reading: Ch. 35 - The Mast-head

Discussion of allusions to Ancient Mariner

V. Moby Dick as a Symbol. Ahab and Moby Dick
Close Reading: Chs. 36, 37, 41, 42, 44, 46
                       Mardi, Ch. 49, 53, 54

All Read: 'Moby Dick: An Egyptian Myth Incarnate', in H. Bruce Franklin, The Wake of the Gods, pp. 53-98
              Richard Chase, 'Melville and Moby Dick - The Meaning of Moby Dick', in Richard Chase,   ed., Melville: A Collection of Critical Essays, pp. 56-61
              J.N.Reynolds: 'Mocha Dick'
              J.-F. Lyotard, 'Of white skin', 'Labyrinth at the Centre', in The Lyotard Reader, pp. 59-65

VI. Moby Dick and Other Whales
Symbolism of Nature in Melville and Emerson
Close Reading: Ch. 61-70, 72-80, 84-90, 95-98
                       Emerson, Nature: Chs. 'Commodity', 'Idealism', 'Spirit', 'Prospects'

ASSESSMENT
Credits will be given only for regular and effective coursework which includes reading assignments, short oral presentations (several times during the semester) in­terpreting course texts, their passages, or critical literature. In addition to this, students must submit a paper of 15 pp. (3,500 words; one paper for the whole time of their attendance) based on one of the interpreted texts or any of the problems discussed in the seminar.

FULLTEXT SEARCH