In this course we will tackle the prose and poetry of Herman Melville, especially Moby Dick (1851); Pierre, or the Ambiguities (1852); Israel Potter (1855); The Piazza Tales (1856); The Confidence Man (1857); Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War (186). What counts most in this class is a willingness to read closely and contextualize Melville's writings.
Popularity followed the publication of Typee and Omoo, his early stories of travels in the South Seas. But the works we'll read guaranteed his disappearance from the literary scene. Reviewers were outraged by Pierre, his rather wild story of love, incest, and death. An obsessive and philosophical writer, preoccupied with legal slavery, rituals of belief, and the false benevolence of his time, Melville demands that we reconsider the writings of those who influenced him, as well as those contemporaries with whom he remained in dialogue. Our collateral readings include: John Locke, David Hume, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Orville Dewey, Edgar Allan Poe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the legal opinions of his father-in-law Lemuel Shaw and Joseph Story.
Requirements: weekly response papers, due before Thursday's class and a final paper (12-15) pages.