Melville and Nietzsche: Living the Death of God


Herman Melville was so estranged from the religious beliefs of his time and place that his faith was doubted during his own lifetime. In the middle of the twentieth century some scholars even associated him with nihilism. To date, however, no one has offered a detailed account of Melville in relation to Nietzsche, who first made nihilism a topic of serious concern to the Western philosophical tradition. In this essay, I discuss some of the hitherto unexplored similarities between Melville’s ideas and Nietzsche’s reflections on and reactions to the death of God and the advent of nihilism in the West.