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Posts tagged "Herman Melville"


Malicious Agencies and Intangible Malignities in Moby Dick

A sublime passage from the 41st chapter of Moby Dick on Original Sin and scapegoating, or -whaling as the case may be, followed by a sermon that references it to great effect, ht PW:

P762The White Whale swam before him as the monomaniac incarnation of all those malicious agencies which some deep men feel eating in them, till they are left living on with half a heart and half a lung. That intangible malignity which has been from the beginning; to whose dominion even the modern Christians ascribe one-half of the worlds; which the ancient Ophites of the east reverenced in their statue devil;—Ahab did not fall down and worship it like them; but deliriously transferring its idea to the abhorred white whale, he pitted himself, all mutilated, against it. All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.

And here’s “A-R0d, Ahab, and the Daughter of Abraham” from Paul Walker:

Another Week Ends: Secular Apocalypse, Holy Spirit Hits SEGA, Melville’s Bible, More A-Rod, Increasing Positivity, and Insights from The Canyons

1. First off, an excellent essay on Apocalypticism over at The Chronicle looks at the psychology behind end-times expectations and fascinations. There’s something endearing about a professed “secularist” having both a real understanding of Christianity and a penchant for pointing out how secular humanists fall prey to the same end-of-history temptations as Christians do (read: […]

Locked Doors and Charity Tickets in Herman Melville’s “Two Temples”

I’ve written on this not-very-talked-about collection of shorts from Melville, called The Happy Failure, before, and Melville has been a character-revival of some consequence as of late anyway, but this quirky story “The Two Temples” completely blindsided me. A short story in two parts, “Temple the First” and “Temple the Second,” the narrator is an […]

Upstream Ambition and the Universal Drift in Herman Melville’s “The Happy Failure”

The only short story most people are required to read in the Melville anthology is “Bartleby, the Scrivener”–a completely depressing novella about a man gone gloomy in Wall Street. People really do like Melville, and he’s gained the critical respect of the academy for his complex and vast allusive knowledge, as well as his unprecedented […]

Marilynne Robinson on the Great Problem of Christianity and the Failure of Russia and Mississippi

If in good conscience I could reproduce the entirety of Marilynne Robinson’s beautiful recent piece on the Bible for the NY Times Book Review, “The Book of Books,” I would. Instead, a few paragraphs will have to suffice. If you happened to read it when it appeared a few days before Christmas, you’ll know what […]

Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Most Pernicious Piece of Literature in the American Canon

Homina homina homina. The Riff column in The NY Times Magazine has been such a treasure trove this past year. Recent case in point: “The Foul Reign of ‘Self-Reliance’,” in which Benjamin Anastas exposes what he considers to be the havoc wreaked by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s seminal essay on generations of Americans. And while some might […]