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akeefe's picture

So to generalize...

This is my first time reading Moby Dick. So far, I have found it to be a fascinating journey. As we discussed in class, we all came (or had to actively tried not to come) at this novel with certain expectations. I found it interesting, particularly in the case of us who had never picked up Moby Dick, that we could still have such distinct opinions of it. We had heard it was boring. We had heard it was a classic. We had heard it was about some obsessed guy, and his obsession.

What I think is so interesting is that within all of these expectations, stereotypes if you will, we also find generalization. I once had a psychology professor tell me that paying attention to stereotypes is important, because they tell the story of group interactions. We cannot ever entirely rid ourselves of stereotypes, because our brain wants to classify information on a generalized, categorized level. What we can do is change our method of categorization. However, that is not the purpose of this post.

What I mean to say is that, can this idea hold true for the stereotypes/generalizations about literature? Can we learn anything about how literature functions in our society by the categories we place it in? There are many elements of the piece that could have been generalized about. The story has comedic and satirical elements; there’s adventure; there’s religion. However, what we have heard about Moby Dick, is that it is another scholarly work, part of “the classics.” Perhaps, Moby Dick isn’t considered a comedy, because it doesn’t function as one. I could with my new experience of this novel attempt to change this, but students will still be reading it in English classes around the country. I can’t currently foresee, therefore, this notion changing without some evolution of how we deal with texts.


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