Story of Evolution/Evolution of Stories
Bryn Mawr College
30 March, 2004

Thar she blows ...

Approaching the coastline

I, too, seem better able to process certain types of writing. Sometimes I'm actually suprised by the writing that I process more efficently because it is not necessarily the writing that I like better. Could this reflect evolutionary selection? Are we all equipped to understand certain things better than others just in case, and might this affect survival? ... Diane

I first need to believe the writer, be inside his or her head so that when the idea expands in my head it is as close to the idea that s/he had. It is only on a second reading of the whole text or parts of the text that I am able to analyse the work from my perspective, finally allowing the idea/story to find its own places in the crevices of my mind. ... Simran

The forum, I think allows for an abundance of stories, for people to both talk and listen at the same time... a sort of equilization of the "who gets to tell a story," playing field... ... Elizabeth C.

so, in a way, publication, posting is a form of sacrifice ... we allow ourselves to be captured in order to help others in thier struggle, leave morsels to help others who are behind us? ... Orah

Wonder what would happen if we felt less of a need to claim ownerships of stories. Maybe we'd feel less bound by them. Rather than telling "our" story, we'd simply be telling "another" story. And maybe then we could more freely play devil's advocate, consistency of "our" stories be damned. The stories, at least, would be the better for it ... Su-Lyn

Getting To the Word

I find myself very content to be back in familiar territory reading Moby Dick. Although I have never read it before, I know what to expect in a general sense; not so much to do with the plot, rather how I'm expected to act in relation to the text etc ... I feel more revived now, more important, more productive ... I feel as though up until now, I have been listening to a story. Not that this is bad, but it does lend itself to the feeling of being stagnant that I get in classes of seemingly 'bounded' subjects (generally math, science, etc). I know we are supposed to be questioning and making up our own stories, but I have felt as though I need to learn more before I can produce ... Nancy E.

when i say i am having difficulty with the book, it is not because i do not understand the book. the footnotes explain most of the allusions that i am at a loss for, and rereading a sentence a few or more times will generally unravel the basic meaning of it. where i am at a loss is the meaning "the meaning" the meaning... i am trying so hard to have this book become meaningful ... Em

MD is so much more interesting than I had expected it to be. The story is intertwined with chapters with facts and new stories, making a giant quilt that forms the greater work ... Meg

"there are certain queer times and occasions in this strange mixed affair we call life when a man takes this whole universe for a vast practical joke...There is nothing like the perils of whaling to breed this free and easy sort of genial, desperado philosophy; and with it i now regarded this whole voyage of the Pequod, and the great White Whale its object."

i guess you could look at life that way.
i don't ... Orah

so as to melville and whether moby dick is a joke, maybe it could be, but that seems counter-intuitive for me. 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. maybe that's only because i find it insulting- i take myself rather seriously! i can laugh at myself ... but in the end i find the idea that i and the things i am invested in are all a joke very threatening. so i've decided they're meaningfull! ... i think of moby dick more as an often playful, through an admittedly futile, search for meaning, a search that melville is nonetheless earnestly engaged in ... Becky

The Cast of Characters

One of the questions we all answered in my section on Thursday was where/whether we found ourselves in Moby-Dick. We had an Ahab or two (folks on a quest to "know"), several "onlookers" (including Ishmaels and one Queequeg), one member of the class who identified as Moby-Dick (not wanting to be confined/contained by anyone else's knowing!) ... Anne

What instills vital forces into people making them live, instead of merely existing? ... From this point of view, Ishmael's and Ahab's stories resemble a rendition of "Hotel California" or the R.L.Stevenson's Suicide Club: "Fear is the strong passion; it is with fear that you must trifle, if you wish to taste the intense joy of living." ... Bored with his existence as a school master, Ishmael embarks on this journey to test whether life still means anything to him. ... Facing death, he is able to appreciate the moment and live it out fully without regretting a single second ... Ahab is driven by hate towards Mobidick and the inscruitable force it represents. What generates this hate? Isn't it the fear of the unknown that he cannot bring under control that humiliates him and, thus makes him hate? Making Ahab experience so strong emotions, the fear does instill life into him...

the more that I read, the less I am reading from the point-of-view of Ishmael. His knowledge seems boundless, writing on and on about whales and the history and art surrounding them, and retelling the stories of encounters from other ships, and even slipping into the minds of some of his ship mates and telling their stories and their thoughts. Suddenly, while reading I thought, damn, this Ishmael is a really big liar ... Katherine P.

... the mysterious Fedallah and his crew. They appeared out of thin air it seems (although they were hinted at many times before their appearance) and I wonder if they function as a representation of fate. Fedallah, interestingly enough, in Arabic means 'in the hands of God' (Did Melville know that? My 'Specters of Moby Dick' Prof last semester at Haverford didn't seem to think so but it just seems like such an extraordinary coincidence). There are also curious passages throughout the book that alludes to Ahab and Fedallah being one man Fedallah an externalized insecurity perhaps? Fedallah, shadow, stare, wordless's all rather supernatural ... Aia