Friday, February 8, 2013

Early thoughts on rereading Moby-Dick

I am  teaching a single-text course on Moby-Dick at Lang this semester,and as one would expect from such a great book (and given that the time of day and the specific aspects of the class are both very different) my thoughts are quote on another level from the last time I taught it (fall 2010), which produced this article. This time around, I am noticing the micro as much as the macro aspects, and more of the tonality of the book rather than its overall vision. For instance, one notices --given that the book is about a group of men at sea--how many women and female references there are in the book--including a 'these New Bedford chicks are really hot!" comment at the end of Chapter 6, which ishmael, or Melville, puts far more elegantly:

nd the women of New Bedford, they bloom like their own red roses. But roses only bloom in summer; whereas the fine carnation of their cheeks is perennial as sunlight in the seventh heavens.

and, no matter how homoerotic Melville's affect or sexuality--and there were obviously gay strains seen in Moby and in Billy Budd, and he was in a sense 'in love' with Hawthorne--there is also a lot of hetero-erotic feeling here, there is a female side to the book, Bildad's sister Charity, Ahab's 'sweet, resigned; wife, etc. The other thing I am noticing is the humor, how funny it is side by side with the sweeping epic aspirations.....some books are epic, like paradise Lost, some mock-epic, like Don Quixote. Melville';s novel--which refers to both anterior texts--has epic and mock-epic side-by-side, parallel, so that the reader can enjoy both at once.

My class is also enjoying listening to this marathon recorded read of the novel, one of whose readers is the current occupant of 10 Downing Street... see this site. Some of the choices for readers are quite inspired, such as Witi Ihimaera reading "BIographical" (about Queequeg). 

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