Tag Archives: melville

A Commons Or A Prison

I prepared the following for the Bergamo Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice. From Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants […]

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Serving the Word

It might have been but a deception of the vapours, but, the longer the stranger was watched, the more singular appeared her manoeuvres. “Benito Cereno” by Herman Melville In a recent scholarly biography of Louis Agassiz, Christoph Irmscher, in a chapter on Agassiz’s notorious “race science,” notes that Agassiz is in no way the lone […]

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Everything Reminds Me of Moby Dick: Maxine Kumin

It came to my attention while skimming the Women’s Review of Books that poet Maxine Kumin had died (nearly a year ago). I know nothing of Kumin’s work but this memorial piece by Robin Becker reminded me of something: The humor here belies the relationship Kumin negotiated with her own impulse toward reverence. The paradise […]

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The Work of Language

This is from Dan McCall’s preface to the Norton Critical ed. of Melville’s Short Novels. ********* He read voraciously; in Moby-Dick he said, “I have swam through libraries.” When he began to read Shakespeare, for example, something not altogether conscious or voluntary began happening to him. In American Renaissance, …F. O. Matthiessen concludes that Melville’s […]

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The Argument of Arms

Here is the opening of an essay by the Australian poet A.D. Hope called “The Argument of Arms.” It is collected in his 1974 book of essays, The Cave and the Spring. I imagine Melville located something of Ahab in Marlowe’s Tamburlaine as well as Shakespeare’s Coriolanus…both “poets” of power. Pay close attention–this “is the […]

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Swerve Me Ye Cannot!

From Lecture #6 from John Searle’s 1984 Reith Lectures, “Minds, Brains and Science.” If libertarianism, that is the thesis of free will, were true, it appears we would have to make some really radical changes in our beliefs about the world. In order for us to have radical freedom then it looks as if we […]

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Tied to Your Shared Fate

[In which we conclude that Stubb's version of the monkey-rope is evil.] What is Equality? The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities. What is Equity? The quality of being fair or impartial; fairness. Is there equity in the (shared, negotiated?) social understanding of equality? I read this in a recent New […]

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The Impossible Principle

Melville wrote books that could be said to be about: Christian hypocrisy in the Marquesas, authoritarian coercion, military rule, torture, the Leviathan state, labor and brotherhood, wanton slaughter for the benefit of human “profit and progress,” the fraudulence of democratic institutions, the manipulative mysteries of the priestly caste, the politics of the confidence scam, the […]

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Bantling Psalms

Hard upon the last entry I remembered that Waldo penned his own “psalm” to the new nation commemorating a commemoration of the Battles of Lexington & Concord (April 19, 1775). I thought it would serve to put that poem in close proximity to Melville’s. Concord Hymn Sung at the Completion of the Battle Monument, July […]

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Law On Her Brow

One would guess that “The Portent” is far and away Herman Melville’s most well-known poem (perhaps the only poem of his remembered or read by anyone other than an academic). It opens his book Battle-Pieces and Aspects of the War (1866), and so opens the “Battle-Pieces” section of the book. This poem is about John […]

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Building the Insanity In: Ex Machina

This is not a movie review. This is me thinking about empathy. Last night, lonely little ol’ me sat in […]

Dislodged Giant: Can We Use Stevens to Interpret Dickinson?

You tell me. “I thought that nature was enough” by Emily Dickinson I thought that nature was enough Till Human […]

By Metaphor Alone

Motivation matters. If the scientific method (which we make into the massive all-encompassing abstraction of SCIENCE to compete with the […]

By Force of Law

Nothing new under the sun. Why do you suppose a “Sanders” presidency would change what is described below in Chapter […]

Now You Know What A Horse Is: Views On Education in the 19th Century

Schools are scenes of extreme manipulation and coercion. Our national and state interest in them is less than benign, or […]

A Rule of Storytelling and Unhappiness

As my friend began reading William Morris’s News From Nowhere, or, An Epic of Rest, I thought I might take […]