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After the Whale, After the Whale, 0817307745, 0-8173-0774-5, 978-0-8173-0774-5, 9780817307745,

After the Whale
Melville in the Wake of Moby Dick
by Clark Davis

Trade Cloth
1995. 256 pp.
978-0-8173-0774-5
Price:  $39.95 s

After the Whale Melville in the Wake of Moby-Dick Clark Davis
After the Whale contextualizes Herman Melville's short fiction
and poetry by studying it in the company of the more familiar fiction
of the 1850s era. The study focuses on Melville's vision of the
purpose and function of language from Moby-Dick through Billy Budd with
a special emphasis on how language--in function and form--follows and depends
on the function and form of the body, how Melville's attitude toward
words echoes his attitude toward §esh. Davis begins by locating and
describing the fundamental dialectic formulated in Moby-Dick in the characters
of Ahab and Ishmael. This dialectic produces two visions of bodily reality
and two corresponding visions of language: Ahab's, in which language
is both weapon and substitute body, and Ishmael's, in which language
is an extension of the body--a medium of explanation, conversation, and
play. These two forms of language provide a key to understanding the difficult
relationships and formal changes in Melville's writings after Moby-Dick.
 

By following each work's attitude toward the dialectic, we can see
the contours of the later career more clearly and so begin a movement away
from weakly contextualized readings of individual novels and short stories
to a more complete consideration of Melville's career. Since the
rediscovery of Herman Melville in the early decades of this century, criticism
has been limited to the prose in general and to a few major works in particular.
Those who have given significant attention to the short fiction
and poetry have done so frequently out of context, that is, in multi-author
works devoted exclusively to these genres. The result has been a criticism
with large gaps, most especially for works from Melville's later
career. The relative lack of interest in the poetry has left us with little
understanding of how Melville's later voices developed, of how the
novels evolved into tales, the tales into poetry, and the poetry back into
prose. In short, the development of MelvilleÍs art during the final
three decades of his life remains a subject of which we have been afforded
only glimpses, rarely a continuous attention. After the Whale provides
a new, more comprehensive understanding of Melville's growth as
a writer.


Clark Davis is Assistant Professor of English at Northeast Louisiana University.
 


"An important, well-executed study. With intelligence, conviction, assiduity, skill, and considerable economy, Davis has drawn a convincing line of connection through Herman Melville's later works. This book will be widely read and appreciated, taking its place among the more important studies of Melville."
--Stanton B. Garner, Professor Emeritus of EnglishThe University of Texas at Arlington

Winner of the Elizabeth Agee Prize in American Literature, 1993

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