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R E V I E W S Lawrence’s...sensing the blank page of Melville’s emotional life” (57) seems to me the same Hardwick who once referred to the act of making of literature as “profoundly unmarried.” On the other hand, she is quick to point out that marriage was the making of Melville as a writer: “He might long for male friendship , even for love, but marriage changed him from an unanchored wanderer into an obsessivewriter, almost as if there, in a house, in a neighborhood, there was nothing else for this man to do....” (51) There is something touching in the way such a wild, anti-social, protracted -adolescent male figurekeeps drawing on the sympathy (maternal? selfidentifying ?) of this particular critic, whose specialty has always been social sophistication. Of course that sympathy is grounded in a recognition of true literary genius, and becomes a graceful tribute paid to it. In the end Hardwick insists, “Thisbook is a reading of the work.” An uncommonly good book, its chief accomplishment is to have left us a set of beautiful sentences, as stunningly opalescent as a shell collection. While no substitute for original scholarship , it was never intended to be, and should be read in the classically essayistic spirit in which it was offered. Phillip Lopate Hofstra University The Weaver-God, He Weaves: Melville and the Poetics oj-the Novel & Sounding the Whale: Moby-Dick us Epic Novel. CHRISTOPHER STEN Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1996.361 & 91 pp C hristopher Sten weaves an intricate and compelling proposition into The Weaver-God, He Weaves: Melville and the Poetics o f the Novel: ‘Melville’sten major prose works each depict a particular genre of the novel. Sten argues that his book “isvirtually the first to see Melville as a novelist at all. . . . Melvillehas consistently been viewed as a misfit in the history of the novel” ( 2 ) . He then works through Melville’s ten books of prose, discussing which genre of novel each portrays. Sten’s argument is persuasive, and it certainly is alluring. There is a sense of eagerness at the beginning of every chapter to discover how Sten will identify each Melvillebook. The fact that he ~ ~ A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L ES T U D I E S 1 1 1 R E V I E W S identifieseach genre within the chapter title-e.g., “‘Onthe Move’ in Polynesia: Omoo as Picaresque Novel”-could possibly diminish the excitement, unless the reader is trained not to look at the chapter titles. As Sten writes in his introduction, he began with “an investigation of Melville’s conception of ‘identity’in the early novels” (1). However, he soon noticed how much the protagonists of Melville’searly works parallel heroes in differentindividual genres of the novel. Eventually he came to see that what he calls “thelater, more impersonal novels” (2)-Pierre through Billy Budd-were also shaped by particular genres of the novel. From this, his study was born. Genres, Sten writes, have a “constitutivefunction; they are instruments of creation ” (6). They also have a “heuristicfunction; they are instruments of meaning ”(6). The crux of Sten’s argument, then, is that the genre of a particular work must be identified before that work can be interpreted. Sten notes that a literary work conveys meaning both by its departure from a set of genre codes as well as by its resemblance to them. Here, in the first pages of the introduction , the reader must be convinced by Sten’sargument, for the rest of the book is an elucidation of this argument applied to each of Melville’s ten “novels.” Since Sten’s book was first conceived as a study of identity, the issue of identity permeates the discussions of the early works: Typee through MobyDick . It peaks in chapter four, “‘Gentleman Forger’: Redburn as Bildungsroman,”which appeared in a differentversion as “Melville’sGentleman Forger: The Struggle for Identity in Redburn” in Texas Studies in Literature and Language in 1979. Sten’s early chapters are enriched by a discussion of identity , a discussion unfortunately missing in the chapters on the later “impersonal” novels. Identity...


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pp. 111-114
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