A brief programming note (and Melville’s Pierre)

I’ve been deep in Melville’s Pierre; or, the Ambiguities for the last week (sample sentences demonstrating the novel’s weirdness: “With Mrs. Glendinning it was one of those spontaneous maxims, which women sometimes act upon without ever thinking of, never to appear in the presence of her son in any dishabille that was not eminently becoming” or “Not that in the despotism of other things, the thought of Lucy, and the unconjecturable suffering into which she might so soon be plunged, owing to the threatening uncertainty of the state of his own future, as now in great part and at all hazards dedicated to Isabel; not that this thought had thus far been alien to him.” What is unconjecturable suffering? I don’t think I’ve ever felt it). The novel is so hilariously, insanely bad that there must be some purpose to its badness, and I’ve been plumbing that purpose while trying to let my prose purple through pernicious exposure—with only some success. My theory: the novel’s language, structure, and incestuous tropes point to the past’s simultaneous constructing and strangling influence on the present.

Turning that general idea into a specific and sound paper, however, is tough, not least because of the source material. A presentation on it yesterday went reasonably well, but I’ll be continuing work over the next weeks or months, and we’ll see how that goes. This is a longish way of explaining why posts have tended towards the short and to the point lately: they act as a counterweight to the massive textual leviathan I’m wrangling in my other life.

A brief programming note (and Melville's Pierre)

I’ve been deep in Melville’s Pierre; or, the Ambiguities for the last week (sample sentences demonstrating the novel’s weirdness: “With Mrs. Glendinning it was one of those spontaneous maxims, which women sometimes act upon without ever thinking of, never to appear in the presence of her son in any dishabille that was not eminently becoming” or “Not that in the despotism of other things, the thought of Lucy, and the unconjecturable suffering into which she might so soon be plunged, owing to the threatening uncertainty of the state of his own future, as now in great part and at all hazards dedicated to Isabel; not that this thought had thus far been alien to him.” What is unconjecturable suffering? I don’t think I’ve ever felt it). The novel is so hilariously, insanely bad that there must be some purpose to its badness, and I’ve been plumbing that purpose while trying to let my prose purple through pernicious exposure—with only some success. My theory: the novel’s language, structure, and incestuous tropes point to the past’s simultaneous constructing and strangling influence on the present.

Turning that general idea into a specific and sound paper, however, is tough, not least because of the source material. A presentation on it yesterday went reasonably well, but I’ll be continuing work over the next weeks or months, and we’ll see how that goes. This is a longish way of explaining why posts have tended towards the short and to the point lately: they act as a counterweight to the massive textual leviathan I’m wrangling in my other life.

Melville and the theme of boredom

I’m writing a paper on Melville’s Pierre: or, The Ambiguities, which is slowly driving me crazy (I leave it to the reader to decide whether I refer to paper or book). While searching the library last week, I came across a book whose content has no doubt been contemplated by many a student over the years:

In case you can’t read the spine, it says Melville and the Theme of Boredom. If I hadn’t seen it in a research library, I’d assume the title to be a work of parody.

Life

“In their precise tracings-out and subtle causations, the strongest and fiercest emotions of life defy all analytical insight. We see the cloud, and feel its bolt; but meteorology only idly essays a critical scrutiny as to how that cloud became charged, and how this bolt so stuns.”

—Melville, Pierre

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