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Abstracts ALA 2010—San Francisco Melville and Religious Experience CHAIR: BRIAN YOTHERS, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT EL PASO Participants in “Melville and Religious Experience” panel at ALA 2010, from left to right: William E. Engel, Jonathan A. Cook, Richard Hardack, Peter Norberg, Brian Yothers. F ew writers have engaged more subtly or more broadly with the subject of religious experience than Melville. On both a cognitive and an affective level, Melville’s work is in dialogue with a staggering range of religious traditions. Panelists were invited to consider the following C  2010 The Authors Journal compilation C  2010 The Melville Society and Wiley Periodicals, Inc. L E V I A T H A N A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 131 E X T R A C T S questions: How does Melville represent belief, unbelief, and tensions and accommodations between the two? Within the context of American Protestant religious culture, what roles do Calvinism, Arminianism, Unitarianism, or Methodism play in Melville’s art? How does Melville negotiate the relationship between the universal and the particular in his treatment of religious experience ? To what degree is Melville’s representation of religious experience fluid over the course of his career? To what degree does his religious thought remain consistent? The panel illuminated one of the most vexed areas of Melville scholarship: the nature of Melville’s responses to ideas, texts, and individuals associated with multiple religious traditions across his career. Melville’s Miltonic Notion of Providence: A Case Study of Moby-Dick, Chapters 82-83 William E. Engel University of the South M ilton’s Calvinist notion of prevenient grace, fundamental to his epic’s recessed theological armature, became a topic for the most serious kind of jesting in Moby-Dick. I seek to clarify Milton’s ideas about providence (especially that mode of grace that anticipates repentance), and then to indicate the extent to which this theme is appropriated and inscribed in Moby-Dick. Focusing on Melville’s use of the Old Testament, Jonah in particular, I assess Melville’s own brand of serio-comic biblical exegesis, which is indebted to Milton’s idiosyncratic shuffling of doctrines and is consonant with his confident yoking of classical and scriptural allusions. Not only is this seen in Melville’s linking of Perseus and Jonah in the role-call of the first whalers (NN Moby-Dick 361-62), but also in his reference, from the very outset, to the “police officer of the Fates” (NN Moby-Dick 7). Three main passages in Paradise Lost, when seen together, triangulate Milton’s complicated theology, especially where salvation is concerned. The first indicates that some God has created the Elect and will protect them from all inclination to sin owing to “special grace” (PL 2.1030-33). A pronouncement from God the Father describes a “peculiar grace” for those “Elect above the rest” (PL 3.183-84). The last concerns “prevenient Grace” finding its way to Adam and Eve, which “descending had removed / The stony from their hearts” (PL 11.3-5). Milton’s theology is an amalgam of traditional Old Faith Catholicism in the style of Augustine, austere Calvinist doctrine that differentiates between the Elect and the non-Elect (thus abrogating the need for free will), and Arminianism, based on the ideas of the Dutch reformed theologian Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), who broke with the Calvinist mainstream. Melville was 132 L E V I A T H A N A B S T R A C T S reared in the Dutch Reformed church and would have been thoroughly familiar with the main tenets of both Calvin and Arminius. Like his namesake in the Old Testament, Ahab rejects reconciliation, let alone salvation; he is hell-bent on wreaking vengeance and willing to die exercising his will. Whatever else we may think of the albino whale, “cetology is code for theology”; like the Arminian view of God, the whale tests, though does not control, the resolve, will, and faith of its mortal pursuers. Comparative Religion and Competing Orthodoxies in Melville’s Clarel Peter Norberg Saint Joseph’s...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 132-133
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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