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His World and Work

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If Dickens was nineteenth-century London personified, Herman Melville was the quintessential American. With a historian’s perspective and a critic’s insight, award-winning author Andrew Delbanco marvelously demonstrates that Melville was very much a man of his era and that he recorded — in his books, letters, and marginalia; and in conversations with friends like Nathaniel Hawthorne and with his literary cronies in Manhattan — an incomparable chapter of American history. From the bawdy storytelling of Typee to the spiritual preoccupations building up to and beyond Moby Dick, Delbanco brilliantly illuminates Melville’s life and work, and his crucial role as a man of American letters.

From Publishers Weekly

Jul 18, 2005 – As Melville said of Bartleby the Scrivener, "no materials exist for a full and satisfactory biography of this man." So, notes Columbia humanities professor Delbanco (The Death of Satan), a similarly incomplete record exists for Melville. Nevertheless, in this accessible account, Delbanco both places the great novelist assuredly in his time and delves into his works' continuing significance. While Melville's career at sea initially defined his literary reputation, Delbanco also notes that an earlier, unsuccessful attempt to go west and his later return to New York City were essential to Melville's sense of the fresh, and fragile, American republic. Delbanco also traces a Romantic thread in Melville's work (he had a fascination with Frankenstein) and the impact of abolitionism, drawing a parallel between the fugitive slave cases judged by Melville's father-in-law and his portrayal of the Pequod's African-American cabin boy, Pip. Melville's gradual withdrawal from public life after Moby-Dick's failed reception added to the dearth of biographic data, but Delbanco saves most of his theorizing for Melville's work expansively open as it is to Freudian, environmental, postcolonial and endless other interpretations. Even now, Delbanco observes, Melville's uniquely American myth of Ahab and the white whale has been recognized in President Bush's pursuit of Osama bin Laden. 57 b&w illus.
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Literary Criticism
  • Published: Sep 20, 2005
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 448 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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