In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

From the Mast-Head en you say “Melville,”do you mean the man or the text? Do we envision the biographical person -a writer writing -or the sum wtotal of his work -the writings alone. For many readers, the word “Melville”actuallymeans only “Moby-Dick”(not the whale but that singlebook, nicely hyphenated in emulation of the first American edition’stitle). “Haveyou read Melville?” “Ohyes, 1know that book.” This is a common trap: the reduction of all of Melville’s work to one text. Granted, Moby-Dick is a fine book, the best there is. But the man produced more than one text. From Typee to Silly Sudd. And perhaps more to the point, the man seemed addicted to writing. His life was so thoroughly committed to that process that it seemed a ceaseless act of writing, interrupted only by death. Biographers tell us there was certainly more to Melville’slife than just the writing, and it would be just as erroneous to equate Melville and Writing as it would be to reduce all of his writings to just one book about a whale. Even so, we have a way, in our language, to use the word “Melville”not only as a name for a person but metonymically as a reference to that person’s text. “Haveyou read Melville?” “Yes,I know those works.” Why do we conflate person and text? writer and writing? Literary theories and criticalapproaches generally asks us to separate the two and focus solely upon the text. And for good reason: the person is dead, his life irretrievable; but the writings survive. Text transcends time. And yet critics still ponder the writer, if only as an “agent” or “function” of culture. As Roland Barthes put it, “I desire the writer; I need his figure.” Literary scholarship has its own “desire.” It is not to isolate text from writer, or writer from text; it is to discover evidenceof the writer writing, and to give a meaning to the process. When we imagine a writer writing, we recognize that the creation of a text involves the dancing of a creative mind between private and public spheres: the writer writing is essentially a discourse that integrates mental, familial, intellectual,social, cultural worlds. We know, of course, that these past worlds no longer exist except as influences of and remnants in our own world. Even so, these vestiges are not lost worlds. We perceive them dimly or sharply, depending upon the impact of material artifacts: manuscripts, letters, annotated books, and the like. The Special Issue of Leviathan before you demonstrates how we may access thesepast worlds of discourse. Expertlyassembled by guest editor Steven Olsen-Smith, these pages feature two venerable endeavors in Melville scholarship : the recovery of the writer’s library and the study of his use of sources. Melville was an inveterate reader. As Olsen-Smith reminds us in his own contribution to the issue, “A Cumulative Supplement to Melville’sReading,” which 2 L E V I A T H A N F R O M T H E M A S T - H E A D updates us on new findings over the past decade, Melville had acquired in his life over a thousand books. The library was dispersed among family and booksellersat his death; less than a third of the books has been retrieved. Many bear the markings of Melville’shabitual annotation. In such marginalia,we find the record of the writer reading, and writing about his reading. Thesemoments preserve concretelythe intersection of man and text, of a private lifeand the public world of art, politics, and thought. In them, worlds commingle. In a recurring department called “Melville’sHand,” Leviathan brings readers instances of Melville’s creative process. In our impressive double issue of 2002, we featured Melville’s annotations of Milton (soon to be reprinted as a book edited by Robin Grey and published by Duquesne Press). In the present specialissueon readingand sources,Olsen-Smithand DennisMarnon offer their transcription of Melville’s annotations of the works of Renaissance playwright William DAvenant. As with the Milton issue, this is a substantial contribution to our understanding of Melville’s thorough reading of a period in English literary history...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 2-3
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.