American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson

Archive for the ‘Melville’ Category

Moby Dick Meets Eel Queen

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By way of Caleb Crain’s blog, I’ve just learned about a wonderful online resource: a complete archive of the Melville Society Extracts, covering the years 1969 to 2005 (link). There are 127 issues in all, one an index of issues 49 to 72. Each issue has its own link, but the pages are reproduced as image files, so this is not a searchable database. But a useful one? Hell yes.

Fun too. The page shown to the right (from issue 2 [August 15, 1969]) includes the following tidbit under the heading “Media”:

Saturday morning TV pabulum this summer includes an animated children’s series in color on the doings, mostly beneath the surface of the sea, of Tom and Tug and their attendant seal. They are extricated from assorted difficulties by a benign and cuddly white whale. The episode I saw on WVTW-TV of Charlotte, N.C., was entitled “Moby Dick Meets Eel Queen.” When I sought further information from my fellow TV-viewers, ages six and seven, they expressed mild surprise that I didn’t know about white whales.

It looks like I have another project to keep me busy: going through the archive, in search of entries on Melville’s poetry.

Meanwhile, the Moby Dick FAQ (link), devoted to the Hanna Barbera cartoon, not Melville’s novel, provides a thumbnail of Moraya, The Eel Queen. Minimal searching turns up a few snippets of the cartoon, though I’ve no idea how long those will remain online. Moby Dick and the Iceberg Monster is one, available complete.


Written by Ben Friedlander

April 7, 2010 at 9:14 am

Posted in Melville, scholarship

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Lines of Inquiry

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Eliza Richards

A few weeks back, I spent some time with “Poetry, Journalism, and the U.S. Civil War” by Eliza Richards, part of a special issue on nineteenth-century American poetry (ESQ 51.1-4). Richards begins with an essay on the war news by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (whose prose writings on the Civil War are key texts in my view — and not only mine: Tyler B. Hoffman, Alice Fahs, and Franny Nudelman make canny use of him in scholarly works that I much admire).[1]

Here are two important sentences from Holmes that Richards cites, the second with a little abridgment (the date refers to the South’s attack on Fort Sumter):

Now, if a thought goes round through the brain a thousand times in a day, it will have worn as deep a track as one which has passed through it once a week for twenty years. This accounts for the ages we seem to have lived since the twelfth of April last, and, to state it more generally, for that ex post facto operation of a great calamity, or any very powerful impression, which we once illustrated by the image of a stain spreading backwards from the leaf of life open before us through all those which we have already turned.

The previous illustration to which Holmes refers is a passage from The Autocrat of the Breakfast-Table (1858):

A great calamity … is as old as the trilobites an hour after it has happened. It stains backward through all the leaves we have turned over in the book of life, before its blot of tears or of blood is dry on the page we are turning. For this we seem to have lived…. After the tossing half-forgetfulness of the first sleep that follows such an event, it comes upon us afresh as a surprise, at waking; in a few moments it is old again, — old as eternity.

Holmes belongs, clearly, to a small number of theorists whose models of the mind look forward to Freud. And like Freud, Holmes was a medical doctor. This surely gave his models a clinical authority to readers of the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ben Friedlander

March 27, 2010 at 9:16 am

Of Petra

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Annie Finch wrote a note for the Poetry Foundation about the name “Petra,” which she associates with a nineteenth-century poem by the British Anglican John William Burgon. This brought to mind the Petra section of Herman Melville’s Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land (1876), which I’ve been rereading lately for an essay that Sean Reynolds commissioned for his new journal Wild Orchids. I may post excerpts from that essay in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here is a comment I left in response to Annie’s note: Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Ben Friedlander

May 5, 2009 at 5:10 pm