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Inscrutable Malice

Theodicy, Eschatology, and the Biblical Sources of Moby Dick

Jonathan A Cook

Publication Year: 2012

Though Moby-Dick is one of the most discussed and most-read works of American literature, the influence of the Bible has been overlooked in many contemporary studies of the novel. In Inscrutable Malice, Jonathan A. Cook expertly illuminates Melville’s abiding preoccupation with the problem of evil and the pervasive role of the Bible in shaping his iconic work.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xiv

In this study I seek to examine Moby-Dick in the context of the author’s dramatization of the problem of evil, a subject of recurrent interest in Western culture and Judeo-Christian tradition. Framing Melville’s fictional exploration of this vexed question was his immersion in the Bible, especially the text of the Old Testament ...

Bibliographical Note

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pp. xv-xvi

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1—Joban Theodicy and Apocalyptic Eschatology

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pp. 3-33

A little over a century ago, in a discussion of “The Sick Soul” in his Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), the philosopher and psychologist William James examined a human personality type that, in contrast to what he had earlier called a proponent of the “religion of healthy-mindedness,” or a type that minimized the existence of evil in the world, ...

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2—Pilgrimage and Prophecy

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pp. 34-71

In the previous chapter, we have reviewed the biblical paradigms of theodicy and eschatology that offered a potential rationale for the existence of evil and human suffering that Melville explored in Moby-Dick. Yet the novel also draws extensively on its immediate religious, historical, and cultural contexts. ...

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3—Chaos Monster and Unholy Warrior

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pp. 72-109

If the apocalyptic and eschatological themes of Moby-Dick are repeatedly invoked in the early chapters of the novel as Ishmael goes in search of a whaling vessel (as we have seen above), the Joban theme follows a more gradual pattern of development, being hinted at the start of the novel but made fully manifest only when Ahab makes his first appearance in chapter 28. ...

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4—Cetology, Cosmology, Epistemology

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pp. 110-158

In the previous chapter, we have explored the influence of Joban theodicy and apocalyptic eschatology on the characterizations of Ahab and the White Whale. As an anguished victim of divine malevolence like Job, Ahab has mythologized Moby Dick into a modern version of the archetypal Leviathan—becoming, in the process, an exemplar of both eloquent protest, like Job, ...

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5—Comic and Tragic Variations

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pp. 159-194

While questions of cetology, cosmology, and epistemology, as we have seen, inform a number of chapters within the cetological center of Ishmael’s narrative, the modes of comedy and tragedy, similarly imbued with biblical import, also help structure a number of scenes from the same extended middle portion of the narrative. ...

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6—Hubris and Heroism, Mortality and Immortality

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pp. 195-239

Whereas a mix of comic and tragic motifs informs the larger biblical themes within the middle third of Moby-Dick, the development of Ahab’s excessive pride, or hubris, appears in tandem with his distinctive traits of heroic courage in the final quarter of the narrative. ...

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7—Combat and Catastrophe

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pp. 240-270

In the previous chapter, we have seen how Ahab’s exemplary heroism blends with self-destructive hubris, while related questions of mortality and immortality raised by both Ahab and Ishmael in the last quarter of the novel contribute to the development of important religious and philosophical ideas. ...

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pp. 271-280

At the start of his discussion of “How Religion in the United States Avails Itself of Democratic Tendencies” in Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville noted the importance of having “fixed ideas” to support one’s religious beliefs and also the challenges that the power of private judgment, as fostered by democracy, could present to a properly ordered view of the universe: ...


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pp. 281-320

Selected Bibliography of Melville and Moby-Dick Studies

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pp. 321-334


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pp. 335-342

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090784
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804644

Page Count: 384
Publication Year: 2012