Moby-Dick --
Three Hundred Pages Into the Quest;
or, Risking a Few Meanings

"There's another rendering now; but still one text." (Ch. 99, p. 335)

Simran: I think the straightforward text- the opposite of the inaccesible text-
would actually result in a limitation of the gamut of possible meanings.

Images on this page are taken from
Not All Paintings of Moby-Dick Look Mighty Like a Whale (University of Michigan)
Images Taken from Artists After Moby-Dick (Hofstra Museum, 2001)

Paul: What about Anne's claim that the book is a self-reflexive joke, an assertion that literature lacks meaning?

The first thing to say: that's only 1/2 the story. What I actually traced was BOTH the

Inadequacy of books...
Attempts at definition, simultaneous joke at difficulty...
questions usefulness of activity of scholarship...?

And yet: there is SUCH a strong, insistent meaning-making impulse throughout the novel
"Elemental human passions/anxieties re: ground of our being: how world is framed/governed
Insistence on extrapolating cosmological implications from local experience
Every story particularly pressed to yield a model of the world...."

(these observations are from D.H. Lawrence's "Herman Melville's Moby-Dick." Studies In Classic American Literature [1923]: 153-170,
which also argues that Moby-Dick is our "deepest blood-nature hunted by the maniacal fanaticism of mental consciousness...." )

Becky: i find it difficult to imagine going about life or writing such a big book or in any way seriously investing themselves in something they think is ONLY ultimately laughable.... i think of moby dick more a an often playful, through an admittedly futile, search for meaning, a search that melville is nonetheless earnestly engaged in.

So, without for a moment losing a sense of the insistent "Jokey-ness" of It All,
without forgetting that "what in all things makes the sounding-board is this--there's naught beneath" (Ch. 127, p. 395)
(or more postively, from one of Em's poems, with "...the violin a wooden room beneath my chin....")

I want today to follow Ro on Hawthorne on Melville: "He can neither believe, nor be comfortable in his unbelief, and he is too honest and courageous not to try to do one or the other."

And Kat on Paul, Like Orah and, apparently, Melville, "[did] not seem to rest" any in is conclusion- probably because, like he confess, he does not "believe" in any of it, but is "too honest and courageous not to try "....

I want to trace a few possible meanings the novel "makes"
within the very specific context of this course.
I want to look @ what Melville may be telling us about

-- and then end with some reading questions to guide you through the remaining 100 pp. of the novel
(following Hobbes, following Dennett) about--